Monday, January 31, 2011

Sinners Saved By Grace!

Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death.

Paul is known as the Apostle of Grace. I have observed that some of the greatest Christians, like Paul, were some of the greatest sinners. I understand this is not always the case. Praise God for those people who grew up in Christian homes and believed from an early age and serve God with their whole hearts.

But when a low down, rotten, Christian persecuting, martyr-making sinner like Saul does a full 180 degree turn by God's grace and becomes a Gospel preaching, soul-winning machine like Paul, God's grace is showcased.

As Jesus said of the sinful woman turned grateful servant, "Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." Indeed, where sin abounds, grace does much more abound. And when the sin is greater, then grace is even much more so. The greater the wickedness of the sinner, the more amazing the efficacy of God’s grace.

I remember once preparing to preach a message in Mexico about God's amazing grace. The missionary forewarned me that such a concept wouldn't translate in their culture. He said that grace for them was a concept of God's gift that is truly wonderful, but to be expected rather than to be amazed with. It was easy enough to change the message to God's wonderful grace and it worked well. However, I felt sorry for them that they would not be blessed to live in constant amazement that they are targets of God's great grace.

That we are all sinners is undeniable. But those who receive Christ as Savior becoming beneficiaries of grace, God's unmerited favor to us wicked sinners, is unfathomable! To me, as with Saul/Paul, grace is the greatest concept in the universe. It is the most amazing act of the most gracious Being Who condescended to the most undeserving recipients.

I thank God that I am a sinner saved by grace.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Angel Faced Deacon

Act 6:15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.

Stephen was among the number of the first set of deacons of the church at Jerusalem. He also held the distinction of being the first of the 10's of millions of that special class of Christians called martyrs.

He is recorded as being full of faith and power and God used him to work great wonders and miracles among the people. (vs 8)

Additionally, he spoke irresistibly with wisdom and in the Spirit. (vs 10)

Now, Deacon Stephen is being falsely accused, as was his Lord and Savior. Rather than get angry and bitter, he took on the visage of an angel!

I have known a lot of deacons in my day, and most of them were great guys, but I have yet to witness one looking like an angel.

Chapter 7 records the answer of Stephen to his accusers. He gives them the history of Israel in a nutshell, leading up to the coming of the Just One and their rejection of Him.

What really threw them over the edge was when this deacon was so filled with the Holy Ghost that he stared up into heaven, actually seeing the Glory of God and Jesus STANDING at the father's right hand. This is the only time recorded when Jesus stood up from His throne in glory. Imagine that, a standing O from the Lord!

They were so angered at angel face that they threw a great collective tantrum, biting him, putting their fingers in their ears, crying out to drown out his accusations against their actions, stomping on him, throwing him out of the city and stoning him.

One last act of this deacon was most impressive. While dying, he kneeled down and shouted out, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." How like his Lord Stephen was! The next moment, he was in the arms of his Redeemer and living with the angels that he resembled.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

David's Great Distress - I Sam 30:6

1Sa 30:1 And it came to pass, when David and his men were come to Ziklag on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the south, and Ziklag, and smitten Ziklag, and burned it with fire; 2 And had taken the women captives, that were therein: they slew not any, either great or small, but carried them away, and went on their way. 3 So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. 4 Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. 5 And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. 6 And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.

"Greatly Distressed" - pressed, feeling extremely pressured. We call it stress.

What Is Stress? Stress is a feeling that's created when we react to particular events. It's the body's way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina, and heightened alertness.

The events that provoke stress are called stressors, and they cover a whole range of situations — everything from outright physical danger to making a class presentation or taking a semester's worth of your toughest subject.

The human body responds to stressors by activating the nervous system and specific hormones. The hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to produce more of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol and release them into the bloodstream. These hormones speed up heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and metabolism. Blood vessels open wider to let more blood flow to large muscle groups, putting our muscles on alert. Pupils dilate to improve vision. The liver releases some of its stored glucose to increase the body's energy. And sweat is produced to cool the body. All of these physical changes prepare a person to react quickly and effectively to handle the pressure of the moment.

This natural reaction is known as the stress response. Working properly, the body's stress response enhances a person's ability to perform well under pressure. But the stress response can also cause problems when it overreacts or fails to turn off and reset itself properly.
Good Stress and Bad Stress

The stress response (also called the fight or flight response) is critical during emergency situations, such as when a driver has to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. It can also be activated in a milder form at a time when the pressure's on but there's no actual danger — like stepping up to take the foul shot that could win the game, getting ready to go to a big dance, or sitting down for a final exam. A little of this stress can help keep you on your toes, ready to rise to a challenge. And the nervous system quickly returns to its normal state, standing by to respond again when needed.

But stress doesn't always happen in response to things that are immediate or that are over quickly. Ongoing or long-term events, like coping with a divorce or moving to a new neighborhood or school, can cause stress, too.

Long-term stressful situations can produce a lasting, low-level stress that's hard on people. The nervous system senses continued pressure and may remain slightly activated and continue to pump out extra stress hormones over an extended period. This can wear out the body's reserves, leave a person feeling depleted or overwhelmed, weaken the body's immune system, and cause other problems.

Signs of stress may be cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioral. Signs include poor judgment, a general negative outlook, excessive worrying, moodiness, irritability, agitation, inability to relax, feeling lonely, isolated or depressed, aches and pains, diarrhea or constipation, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, eating too much or not enough, sleeping too much or not enough, social withdrawal, procrastination or neglect of responsibilities, increased alcohol, nicotine or drug consumption, and nervous habits such as pacing about, nail-biting and neck pains.

I think that one of the devil’s sharpest tools in his box is stress. It is what he uses to wear us down and make us ineffective, unhappy and tempted to throw in the towel.

Why was David so distressed?
1. His two wives were kidnapped and taken captive.
2. There was talk of stoning him
3. People were grieved
a. because they had lost everything they knew,
b. they had been in exile
c. their city had been destroyed by terrorists
d. their wives, sons and daughters were gone
e. They had wept until they had no more tears

What did David do about his stress?
There are many ways to deal with stress, (exercise, pill popping, diversion, meditation, aroma therapy, etc.) but David employed the best method...he encouraged himself in the Lord!

There wasn’t anyone else close by that was going to encourage him! Listen, people are busy. It is not that they don’t care, they do! People care. But we fail sometimes in praying for and encouraging one another. Don’t blame the other folks, just learn how to encourage yourself in the Lord. Then you won’t have to depend on others who forget, who get too busy, who neglect us sometimes.

1. He got into the Word - He wrote Psalms (blogged). The Word of God is alive, Heb. 4:12
2. He employed good, uplifting, music. He sang and played his instruments
3. He prayed (Repentance, wisdom, praise, complaint, trust, intercession, etc.)
4. He Talked things through (to the Lord). The typical Psalm; stated the problem, saw the Lord in that problem, trusted the Lord, praised the Lord.
5. He exhibited faith and trust – ours is based on what God has promised and what we have experienced in the past.
6. He took care of business. Go on and do what you have to do.
A few other things we can do when stressed…
7. Realize, this too shall pass.
8. Cast your care upon the Lord Mt 11:28-30, I Pet 5:7
9. Simplify your life, prioritize
10. Quit sinning. Sin is a drag because of the guilt and the consequence and causes great stress.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Believers Were Stirred and the Place Was Shaken.

Act 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.

In this account, a notable miracle had occurred, thousands believed on Christ's name, great glory is given to God, the enemies of Jesus are left scratching their heads, fervent prayer was offered up, the Holy Ghost came down and the place was shaken.

Does this sound like anything you have experienced lately? In fact, when was the last time you were filled with the Holy Ghost? How long since you have been shaken by the Lord?

The status quo for many of us is a mundane Christianity without much excitement. We cherish our orthodoxy and cling to our mediocrity for fear someone may think we are off our rocker. Many professed believers take on the looks of the guy pictured above. Talk about "adorning the gospel"!

Orthodoxy loses nothing when we add a little Holy Ghost shaking and stirring to the mix.

If drab is what you grab, then stay with your dead faith. But if you want to add some life to your religion, start praising God even in the midst of your trials, praying like never before, asking God for some miracles, get filled with the Lord and speak His Word with boldness.

That will get you going on a whole new level of Christianity. Ask the Lord to shake the place where you are this week in prayer meeting. Beg Him to stir you from your religious lethargy into joy and rejoicing and revival.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We Need Another Whoosh

Act 2:2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.

This entering of the Spirit of God into their prayer meeting was:
Sudden - "suddenly"
Unexpected - Nothing was as it was before. There had been a crucifixion and resurrection. They had no idea what to expect next. Jesus, they knew, the Holy Spirit was another story.
Unprecedented - Nothing like this had ever transpired, but oh, what a welcome and needed event!
Powerful - "Mighty" It changed everything.
Complete - "It filled all the house where they were sitting" "They were all filled"

Unfortunately, many churches, many people within those churches, are content with the same old liturgical deadness. They are perfectly content with their song, song, prayer, song tradition, unwilling to allow the Spirit of God to bring His life-giving freshness to their services. How sad!

How long since you experienced the "whooshing" of the Holy Spirit in your church services? Perhaps it is time to get unified and pray, pray, pray for Him to move upon you!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Beneficiary of the Book of Acts - Friend of God

Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

The whole of the inspired Word of God contains a mere 66 books. And yet we find two of them written to this one man, Theophilus. Indeed, how blessed is he!

The Gospel of Luke is the former treatise mentioned here. Note Luke 1:3 for Dr. Luke's previous address to this blessed man.

This man, either a Greek or a Roman, is no doubt a student of Luke of which we know little else, only what these two verses reveal of him.

However, he was blessed with a good name which means "friend of God."

I am blessed by a secondary or spiritual interpretation of these verses which address these two books of the Word to Theophilus. That is that we who are blood-bought, born-again children of the Lord, are also called the friends of God (see Jn 15:15)

Therefore, the books of Luke and Acts are doubly meant for us as they were intended for all who would believe and for the friend of God.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Believe it!

Mar 16:11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. 14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

The disciples were having a belief problem. Numerous times Jesus told them that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die and rise again. He did just as He said. Now, as word comes to them, not once, but twice that He indeed was risen from the dead, they refuse to accept it.

You gotta know they were all wishing that this was all, somehow, a very bad dream, that it just wasn't so. These guys, who had witnessed with their own eyes, the Lord raising a young maid from the dead as well as Him stopping a funeral procession to bring a young man back to life, now refused to believe what they should have known was possible.

But still, they were too dull to get it...until Sunday night. He Who had walked on water to them saying, "Be not afraid" now walks through the wall to them saying, "Fear not!" He had to chide them for their unbelief.

However, in His very next directive He instructs them to go to the world and tell everyone else that He died and rose again and those that do believe will be saved.

They did what they were told, fully convinced and convincing that Jesus is alive.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Weight of the World

Mar 14:32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray. 33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; 34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch. 35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

Gethsemane means "olive press." Sure enough, Jesus felt a pressure there on that night that none other will ever feel, the weight of the world.

He knew that Judas was on his way with the soldiers to betray Him.

He knew that Peter would soon deny Him with a curse.

He knew that all the disciples would be offended because of Him that very night.

He knew that long night would bring false accusations, beatings, scourging and condemnation.

He knew that on the morrow, he would be mocked and spit upon, reviled and tortured. His body would be broken and His blood shed.

He knew that His father would have to forsake Him.

He knew that He would bear my sins and suffer my hell.

And therefore, on that night, in that place He began to be sore amazed (utterly astonished). His spirit took on a great heaviness. He admitted that His soul was made intensely sad, even to the point of dying right there and then.

He stared into that bitter cup, asked the Lord to remove it, but then drank it up for our sakes.

You and I have both felt the pressing weight of tremendous burden. The tears fell, the shoulders heaved, the voice broke and our will crumbled.

We have a High Priest Who is touched with the feelings of our infirmities because He faced that pressure and so much more and stood up to the onslaught. So now He is able and willing to draw us close to His breast and give us grace and peace in the hardest of times.

As the song says, If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders, I know my brother that He will carry you.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Savior Seller

Mar 14:10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them. 11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.

Thirty pieces of silver! That's all it took to betray his teacher, leader and employer. Three and a half years of being an eye witness to God on earth doing good and working miracles have been reduced to selling Jesus out for a mere $12,000 to $15,000.

That took a lot of gall, considering that Jesus healed Judas' own dad, Simon the Pharisee, of leprosy!

And all the man could do was gripe and belly ache about the bank account and the use of the funds, all the while, embezzling the funds for himself.

Judas had a crack at eternal glory, a throne around the throne of Jesus. All his comrades have had thousands of churches, hospitals, etc name after them. But you have never heard of a St. Judas Chapel, have you?

Judas was tunnel visioned beyond belief. He cared about two things only, insurrection and getting rich. Talk about short-sighted!

However, I think of how we, the followers of Christ 2000 years later, sell out the Lord for a lot less than what Judas held out for. A few moments of pleasure, a bit of notoriety, a bump in position, an opportunity to sleep in.

Peter wimped out and denied the Lord with an oath because a cutie accused him of being one of the apostolic band. Thank the Lord that he got past that and grew to be the man that would bravely face the death of an inverted cross.

In fact, at the arrest of the Lord, all the other disciples fled into the darkness adjacent to Gethsemane like cockroaches into the word work. They feared that they might be next. But they all got over it and turned the world up-side-down.

No doubt, you can think of the last time you sold the Lord out for a mere mess of pottage. Confess that betrayal, get back up and do something great for Christ.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Bitterness of Betrayal

No treachery is worse than betrayal by a family member or friend. Julius Caesar knew such treachery. Among the conspirators who assassinated the Roman leader on March 15, 44 was Marcus Junius Brutus. Caesar not only trusted Brutus, he had favored him as a son. According to Roman historians, Caesar first resisted the onslaught of the assassins. But when he saw Brutus among them with his dagger drawn, Caesar ceased to struggle and, pulling the top part of his robe over his face, asked the famous question, "And you, Brutus?"

Here are some of the possible situations:
-A friend backstabs you. I read on Facebook the other day of one of the girls who used to come to our church and how she was betrayed once again by a boy and her world has fallen apart. Though you and I roll our eyes, to her it is pretty important stuff.
-The employer you were loyal to fires you or promotes someone else over you even though you know you were the deserving one. Or, after 29 years, a few months away from retirement, you get laid off and everyone knows, it was only because the company doesn’t want to pay your pension.
-Someone you served the Lord with up and leaves the church and has nothing but venom and vitriol to spew.
-A spouse you came to an altar with leaves you for another man or woman and you are left with the responsibility.
-A parent leaves the home when you needed them most.
-A child becomes a black sheep, leaving everything they know is right to live in the pigpen of the world.
-A brother or sister no longer talks to you because of some little insignificant matter.
-A pastor turns his back on God, leaves the church and leaves the congregation in emotional and spiritual shambles.

Perhaps you could even give an instance of a bitter betrayal you have experienced.

My son (who is in Middle school, and you know how that can be) was betrayed by a good friend who used both our church and our home against him. It hurt deeply.

Betrayal is not a strange concept to the Holy Scriptures. Treachery, duplicity, infidelity, disloyalty, perfidy and unfaithfulness are recorded throughout the Word.
-Joseph was betrayed by his own brothers, by Potiphar’s wife, by the butcher and the baker.
-David was betrayed by his king, his chief of staff and his own son.
-Abel was betrayed by Cain.
-read through the books of the kings and you witness one treachery after another.
Jesus prophesies that in the end times… And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. Mat 24:10

I give you now the saddest betrayal in the history of the world.

Mar 14:10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.
Mar 14:11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.
Mar 14:18 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.
Luk 22:47 And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
Luk 22:48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?

Psa 41:9 Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.

Zec 13:6 And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
(explain Middle-Eastern hospitality)

How can we deal with this most hurtful of all things that could ever happen to us?

1. Count the betrayer as a friend, Jesus did. “Friend, betrayest the son of man with a kiss?”
2. Have forgiveness in store – Eph 4:32, Lord’s prayer
3. Learn to depend only on Him. People will fail you! When you find He is all you have, you will know that He is all you need. Remember, it is better to be single wishing you were married than to be married wishing you were single!!!
4. Cast all your care on the One Who knows exactly what you are going through, for he cares for you! I Pet 5:7 He has a promise especially for you… “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” Heb. 13:5
5. Know that God has something better in store for you…
a. a new and improved friend, maybe even a mate. I hate to say this (for sake of being misunderstood) to those of you who have lost friends, church friends, spouses, boy or girl friends, etc., You are better off without them!!!
b. drawing closer to Him
c. heaven!
6. Know that there is a special place set aside for betrayers
a. The Bible says that Judas went to his own place. Regular hell was too good for him.
b. People like Judas, John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, and David’s son Absalom also have a special place set aside for them in history. You know how history has treated Jezebel, Hitler, Attila the Hun, Pol Pot, Vlad Lennon, Chairman Mao? Well, history also doesn’t look to kindly upon those who were treacherous against beloved people.

In American history, there is a man who wanted to be famous, but he became famous for the wrong reasons. You have probably heard his name, even if you don’t know the details of his life. Benedict Arnold is a name that brings to mind betrayal and treason. He actually was a gifted man and a great soldier. All he ever wanted was to be accepted and respected, but in trying to achieve that, he actually ended up causing no one to trust him or accept him.

He was a general during the American Revolutionary War who fought under George Washington. Benedict Arnold was passed over for promotion, falsely accused by his rivals, deferred by those who could help including George Washington, and deprived of the recognition for his accomplishments. He wouldn’t admit that he had caused any of his problems. He always blamed someone else. He finally decided to get revenge by switching sides to help the British. In fact, while he was the commander of West Point, he plotted to surrender it to the British. Before that happened, a British spy was captured carrying papers that exposed his plan. Benedict Arnold barely escaped.

The British rewarded him, but never completely trusted him. He was never given an important military command. Arnold has been called "the best general on either side of the conflict." He earned a name for himself, but it is a reputation as a traitor.

I promise you, people won’t soon be naming their babies Benedict, Absalom, Brutus or Judas.

If you have tasted of the bitterness of betrayal, you are in great company, Jesus!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Breathe After God

Mar 12:29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. Mar 12:31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

The first and greatest commandment is for us to love God, heart, soul, mind and strength.

Love is one of those words that we all seem to have a good sense and grasp of, but cannot really define. We sometimes think of love as an emotion. I believe that love is much more than mere emotion, it is a decision, yea, and even much more than that.

Here, love comes from the Greek word Agapao, which means to breathe after. As the Psalmist said, his soul longs after God like the deer pants after the water brook.

I believe that this kind of love that we are to have for the Lord entails longing, desire, need, emotion and choice.

Well, that kind of love is much deeper than the kind rendered by most of the people who say they love God.

I suppose I ought to examine the depth of my love for the Lord also.

The Saviour said that if we love Him, we will keep His commands. Our passage today points us directly to the command that follows on the heels of loving God. That is, to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Another definition is in order here. “Neighbor” means our fellow man. Specifically, the one that is nearest at the moment or in whatever instance is to be that target of our love. The guy or gal who lives next door (our strict definition of ‘neighbor’) may or may not be the one in deepest need of Christian love. The person Jesus is talking about is the one He brings into your path who is in need of God's love working though you.

We ought to think about what love does. I Corinthians 13 is the definitive chapter on how love is displayed. You know it, but perhaps you may wish to reread it. Suffice it to say that godly love transforms situations as well as souls.

Dionne Warwick was right when she sang, "What the world needs now, is love, sweet love."

The greatest love I can think of includes giving, even the giving of our life for another. That is how much God loved us. The giving of the gospel would be the most needful thing for our neighbors

Let's do some commandment keeping today by loving God and loving our neighbor.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Major House Cleaning

Mar 11:11 And Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve.

You have heard the adage: Count to 10 When You are Angry

Our Lord had just ridden into Jerusalem to the cheers of His admirers. He rode straight to the temple and took a survey of what was going on in the God's.

He witnessed that there were money changers and other hucksters making merchandise from the things of the Lord. And He didn't like what He saw, not one bit!

You know what was impending, the cleansing of the temple, the overturning of the tables of the money changers, the whipping of the religious shiesters and the sermon about transforming a house of prayer into a den of thieves.

But what many haven't thought about is that Jesus acted, He didn't react.

He actually left town and went to Mary, Martha and Lazarus' house for the night. There, He thought about what His actions would be the next day. There, He fashioned a whip, He prayed, he considered the Bible verses He would quote. That evening in Bethany, the zeal of the Lord's house consumed His spirit.

Jesus did not have a fit of anger as He cleansed the temple, as some would suppose. Rather, the occasion was a well-planned and prayed action to make a very strong point.

We may need to re-prioritize what needs to take place in the house of the Lord. Prayer, the Word and worship are foremost, then fellowship and other things follow behind. Let's think about the need for a major house cleaning at church.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Resting Place

Mar 10:1 And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again.

Interesting wording in this verse. "...and the people resort unto him again;" In the telling of the account, we might have said that the people resorted unto Him again, rather than a present and ongoing tense of the verb.

This seems to give us an open invitation to continue finding Him as our ongoing resort.

The word resort comes from two words which mean to journey unto to assemble with. Sumporeuomai, in the Greek.

When I think of a resort, I envision a special place to get a away to, for the purpose of rest and clearing the mind. It is a place away from the usual struggles and clamor of life. It may be to a cabin in the mountains, or out to a special place at the lake or the sea. It is a get away.

In the case of this verse, this get away was an occasion for Jesus to teach them.

As believers, we need Jesus to be our Sumporeuomai, our resort, our refuge. That strong tower that we can run to for the purpose of clearing our minds of the world and filling our hearts with His Word.

He is always available for such a purpose as this. Find in Him a resting place and resort to Him often.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

He Didn't Know What to Say

Mar 9:5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 6 For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. 7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.

Poor Peter, no other disciple knew the taste of shoe leather like him, for he always had his foot in his mouth.

So overwhelmed were Peter, James and John that he felt as if he had to say something, so he says, "Master, it is good for us to be here." Really, do ya think?

Sometimes we need to just shut our mouths, open our eyes and be in wonder at the glory of God.

How cool was it for Moses to be here in the Promised Land? He didn't get to enter the land when he brought the Jews to the brink. He was only allowed to survey the land from Mt. Pisgah. And here he is, accompanying the Lord in all His glory.

How wonderful, this assignment for Elijah! He left earth in a veritable blaze of glory and is returning to be with Christ in all of His glory.

I think "speechless" would have been better for Peter. But, he always had to say something, even if it was from left field.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I need another touch

Mar 8:22 And he cometh to Bethsaida; and they bring a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him. 23 And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. 25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.

The first time Jesus took this blind man by the hand and drew him just out of the edge of town, spit on his eyes and laid His hands on him. The result; "he looked up." Here is a man who has never looked anywhere in his life, but now, his first look was up. For years he must have had his head down in discouragement, but now, for the first time, things are looking up. Up is where our help comes from, where we receive spiritual sight.

Next, he said, "I see..." Now, there are two words he was never able to say before. When we meet Jesus, all things become new. We see and say things never thought possible before.

And then, " as trees, walking." Imagine seeing people for the first time, not clearly yet, but the forms none the less.

But then, we see something striking. For whatever reason, Jesus left his sight less than perfect until this man had to have a second touch. It was the second touch that left him with 20/20 vision. Don't you see that as somewhat mystifying? We would expect complete healing straightaway, but this was a two-step process!

I am left with the impression that the Lord's work sometimes requires stages for the sake of those touched by His hand. Partial healing requires our continued trust and dependence on the Healer.

You recall that Paul implored the Lord for the removal of the thorn in his flesh. The Lord gave him grace rather than healing. The Lord knew which gift would be the greater blessing for Paul. He is now known as the apostle of grace, rather than the apostle of healing. Grace is his great theme in much of his inspired writing.

Some find healing only in death, for once they have breathed their final breath of earth's impure air, their diseased life gives way to immortality and perfect health in which celestial air is inhaled into perfect lungs.

Others find instantaneous healing from the almighty hand of God.

But most of us find our God working in and through us in stages. The Lord allows us to receive what we need and desire over a period of time as we pray and draw ever nearer to Him.

I am blessed that this man was touched, not once, but twice by the Lord's compassionate hand. It assures me that when the Lord has done something in me, that doesn't mean He is through. He just may have even greater things in store for me down the road.

Some of our brothers tout what they call the second blessing or the second work of grace in us. I have to testify that I must be on my 2 thousandth blessing, probably many more. And works of grace? Again, we are well into the many thousands.

Lord, you know I need a brand new touch, my strength from yesterday is gone
But if You'll give me, Lord, another touch, I'll have the strength to carry on

I thought the sun had come to stay, but all too soon it went away
And in its place the storm clouds came, and with the clouds there came the rain

It rained so hard and oh, so long, beneath the storm I felt a calm
It was Your touch that brought me through it all, without Your help I'd surely fall

But it matters not what comes my way, Lord, if you'll just touch me new each day
Your loving touch drives all my fears away, close by Your side I want to stay

Lord, You know how weak I really am, oh, even better than myself
But with Your help I know I really can, make it through the darkest night
Everything's gonna be all right!

Lord, You know I need a brand new touch, my strength from yesterday is gone
But if You'll give me, Lord, just one more touch, I'll have the strength to carry on

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Fault Finders

Mark 7:1 Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. 2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.

What are you looking for in others, faults or blessings?

Obviously, there is a time, a place and a need to cry aloud, spare not a lift up our voice like a trumpet to show God's people their sin. But to spend much of our time biting and devouring fellow believers is very unbecoming of one who claims to be a Christian.

Don't you remember what mom used to say? If you can't say something good about someone, don't say anything at all!

You basically are going to find whatever it is you are looking for in most people. Admittedly, you are going to find plenty of fault in me if you are looking for it.

The scribes felt it was their ministry to find fault with others, especially Jesus and the Disciples. I know plenty of people, preachers at the top of the list, who also feel their ministry is to point out the faults of everyone else.

Of course, you know why they do this, right? Insecurity! They can't match up, so they tear down. That's why folks gossip, why they are condescending and why they criticize.

Sad thing is, "ye shall know them by their fruit." That is, if a person does little but find fault in others, they are acting like the devil, AKA, the accuser of the brethren. But if a person is busy building others, and the law of kindness is under their tongue, they are acting more like Jesus. The result is that others will see this good work and glorify the Father, which is in heaven.

A poignant line from the Ruppe's song, Singin' in the Rain, is appropriate. It says, "when your mouth is full of praise, there's no room to complain." Well said!

If we are about the Father's business, winning souls and building people, we won't have any desire to be griping and cutting the legs out from the Lord's other disciples.

Let it not be said of us as of the fault finders of Mark 7, "This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Proof of a Disciple - Following Christ

Mar 6:1 And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

Some follow bright lights
Their names to be known
Others follow fortune
That their worth might be grown

Thrills are the things
Others hope to find
While educated knowledge
Desire many for their mind

But we follow Christ
Our Saviour and King
For in following just Him
Our hearts freely sing

He never misleads
As we list to His call
Satisfying the souls
Who give Him their all

You call yourself saved, born-again, a blood bought believer and on your way to heaven. Wonderful! But discipleship could be the step you have not yet taken.

Jesus calls us today to deny ourselves, take up the cross and follow Him. But the call of the world is too strong for many believers.

We can never outgive the Lord. When we finally and consistently give it all up for Christ, the rewards are literally out of this world. Deep satisfaction ensues when we submit our all to the Lord, and we will be greeted in heaven with a "Well done, my good and faithful servant."

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Frustrated Dad

Mar 5:21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea. 22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, 23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live. 24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.

Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, had a little 12 year old girl lying at death's door. As God's will would have it, Jesus was in town to do something about that. But a lot transpired that would frustrate any parent.

What was the source of his frustration?

1. His daughter was just a little girl. There is something special about a tender-aged child. It is most difficult to accept that a young child is in grave danger of death.

2. While on the way to his house, the procession was detained by the event surrounding the woman with the issue of blood and her subsequent healing. I am sure that in Jairus' mind, there was no time for other people to be dealt with.

3. The throng. All these people, this "press" as the passage calls the crowd, was a distraction from Jairus' agenda, get the Healer to my daughter's bedside.

4. The whole "who touched me" delay. Perhaps he joined in with those who said, "Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?" "We don't have time for this!"

5. The announcement of one of Jairus' acquaintances, "Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?"

6. All the people in and surrounding his house weeping and wailing, again, in the way. Then, upon Jesus' word that the little girl is only sleeping and is not dead, they laughed Jesus to scorn. This disrespect to a guest would have been extremely embarrassing to the host in that culture.

But two words from Jesus changed all that frustration in to amazed rejoicing.
"Talitha cumi!" "Damsel, arise."

The lesson we can learn is found back in verse 36, when in the midst of Jairus' frustration, Jesus says to him, "Be not afraid, only believe."

No doubt you and I will suffer frustration today now and again. Generally, it will be due to delays and departures from our agenda. We must realize though, that God's agenda trumps ours for good reason. Timing and results are in His control. Our job is to fear not and just trust. There is no sense in getting all out of sorts during the process of God's work.

So, be patient today, allow God to do His thing. In the end, you will be rejoicing in amazement as a result of His miraculous work.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Where Have You Made a Road Today?

1Sa 27:10 And Achish said, Whither have ye made a road to day? And David said, Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites.

David was an Old Testament saint and the King of Israel, the roads he had to make were a little different than ours. The trails we are called to blaze are more related to the Gospel and are paved with grace.

The thing is, each of us should attempt to accomplish at least one thing of lasting value each day.

1. Touch a life – Today, I met for prayer with our city’s fire chief. We had a wonderful time of Christian fellowship and mutual appreciation.

I sat in the office of the Asst chief to thank him for his work. He mentioned a prayer need for a fellow employee. Right then, I decided to make a road… we shut the door and I had prayer with him for the one who is suffering from this unknown disease. Not just for her benefit, but also for his, Frankly, I put God up against it in praying for and claiming healing for our mutual friend. My goal was to make a road so he would see the power of prayer and eventually we could have that talk of salvation!

2. Gain a victory – Life is all about ups and downs, every day is a battle. We have a very real enemy and an even more real captain of our souls. If we have more victories than defeats, life is a lot better. But when the defeats outnumber the victories, it gets almighty discouraging.

Sometimes, those victories are there, but we don’t perceive them. For instance, getting up out of bed is a victory, still having a job, seeing the faces of your family, still having food and a car and housing, we take these victories for granted. Having a church and a Christian family, that’s a victory!

Conversely, we sometimes mischaracterize our defeats. Not making the whole chain of 9 green lights on Capitol Parkway is not a defeat. Your boss calling you on the carpet for being late from coming back from your break is not a defeat. Etc. So you see, perception has a lot to do with victories and losses, but we should strive to make a road each day by gaining a victory.

3. Win a soul – there is nothing like it!!! I will never forget the day that our good friends, my little boy and I went to see the president. It may seem silly, but when we walked out of there, having just heard the POTUS, we found ourselves walking side by side with Johnny Rodgers and his pastor and I was able to introduce my son to the most celebrated athlete in the history of Nebraska football, well, how cool was that!

But what about an opportunity to take a sinner’s hand and God’s hand and let them meet!!! That is making a road!

4. Make a difference - Jud 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
You know, all the folks of my church have made a difference in my life and I hope the feeling’s mutual. But I want that to be a daily thing. It could be just a smile or a phone call or a kind word or a text that says, “I just prayed for you!” If we can just change a person’s day for the positive, we have made a road.

5. Draw nearer to God – You know what was the last song the string quartet played on the Titanic before it sank? Nearer my God to thee. Hey, any day we get closer to the Lord is a day where we have made a good road.

I think of the words of that wonderful song of long ago, Footprints of Jesus:

Sweetly, Lord, have we heard Thee calling, Come, follow Me!
And we see where Thy footprints falling, Lead us to Thee.

Refrain - Footprints of Jesus, That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus, Where’er they go.

Though they lead o’er the cold, dark mountains, Seeking His sheep;
Or along by Siloam’s fountains, Helping the weak.


If they lead through the temple holy, Preaching the Word;
Or in homes of the poor and lowly, Serving the Lord.


Though, dear Lord, in Thy pathway keeping, We follow Thee;
Through the gloom of that place of weeping, Gethsemane!


If Thy way and its sorrows bearing, We go again,
Up the slope of the hillside, bearing, Our cross of pain.


By and by, through the shining portals, Turning our feet,
We shall walk, with the glad immortals, Heav’n’s golden street.


Then at last when on high He sees us, Our journey done,
We will rest where the steps of Jesus, End at His throne.

Refrain - Footprints of Jesus, That make the pathway glow;
We will follow the steps of Jesus, Where’er they go.

You just keep trying to walk in His footprints and you WILL make a road today!

These are all worthy roads.

Many could go through several days and not make any roads.

Making roads involves surveying, building a base and paving the way.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Fishers of Men, Maker of Toffee Bars.

Mar 1:16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.

Don't you love how Jesus used the situation at hand to make His point?

When Jesus talked about cities on a hill which cannot be hid, He spoke from the hillside overlooking Galilee. Across the water, in the distant hills were towns with their white houses gleaming in the sun.

Jesus had His disciples observe the people giving their offerings to the Temple collection box to teach of the eternal investment the little widow was making with her two puny coins, all she had.

We see this over and over in the Gospels. Now, at the onset of His ministry, Jesus is calling fishermen from their nets to become fishers of men. He was using language and culture they knew and to which they could easily relate.

To bring this thought to where you live…

If you are a teacher and He were calling you to discipleship, He might have said, "Come with me and I will teach you to teach the gospel to the students I will give into your care."

To a mechanic, "Be my follower and you will overhaul and tune lives for my service."

To a mail carrier, "Ye shall soon deliver the message of salvation door to door."

To the farmer, "Come, plant the seed of my Word."

What is your proficiency and passion? Is there some way you can relate those skills to the ministry of the gospel?

That, by the way, is exactly how the Lord called me to ministry. I was a candy maker at Russell Stover's. I made butter almond toffee, among other confections. (think Skor or Heath Bars)

One day the Lord asked me, "How many of those do you make a day?

I said, "Ten thousand bars a day, plus several thousand toffee chips."

He asked, "And how much will the company make from your work?"

I said "about $10,000 per day."

"And what good does that do for the people?"

"They will enjoy them, but it will contribute to their poor health."

And here is what the Lord said to me, "Follow me and I will have you to make a profit for me that will be eternal and much healthier for the people."

I put down my confectioner's tools and went to Bible college.

That was 32 years and 6 months ago. And though I still have dreams at night of working in the candy factory, I have never looked back, never considered anything but investing in the eternities of others. I have preached and taught somewhere around 7500 sermons and lessons. I don’t know how many have been saved, how many have been encouraged or enlightened, I leave that up to the recording angel. But I know more lives have been touched than had I still been mixing and cooking sugar, water, almond dust, almond extract, palm kernel oil, lecithin and salt.

Listen for the voice of the Savior, perhaps He is calling you to something greater and more eternal today.

If not, know that that to which He has called you should also be ministry with eternal implications.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Blessed and Fruitful New Year to You!

Luk 13:6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Luk 13:7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
Luk 13:8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
Luk 13:9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

I pray that you, dear reader, will be a fruitful tree in the year 2011 for our Lord! God bless you in 2011