Sunday, October 20, 2019

Comfort ...

"Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins." ~ Isaiah 40:1-2
Some years ago I was visiting my father-in-law in the hospital. As we talked, I happened to notice a fellow pastor that we both knew. Pastor Charlie was sitting at the bedside of an elder in his church who was terminally ill. The man wasn't able to feed himself and Pastor Charlie, patiently and lovingly, fed his parishioner. It was a touching moment to watch the one who delivered God's Word every week with distinct authority, extend needed comfort in the most gracious way. We're never more Godly, than when we comfort those in need.
Some have been totally misled to believe that God, as revealed in the Old Testament, was a God of judgment and wrath alone, without love or compassion. For these people He was a hard task master, demanding perfection without mercy. Yet, we find in the passage above a very different picture of God. His heart was opened wide with tenderness and pardon for sin. Trials had passed, corrections were administered, but at the end of the day our God cried out to comfort, ... comfort his people.
Do you really know the heart of your God my friend? David knew Him as his personal Shepherd, when he wrote ... "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." (Psalm 23:4) Paul the apostle knew Him as "the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3) What are you struggling with today? Have your trials overwhelmed you? Then look to your heavenly Father and find his comfort in this time of need.

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Saturday, October 19, 2019

At the top...

"For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite." - Isaiah 57:15
It has been said that nice guys end up last. In the fight to get to the top, most big wheels follow this worldly wisdom very closely. Climbing up the corporate ladder often means trampling over very humble and lowly people who get in the way. Then, when the battle is won and they become a big cheese, they finally learn that... "it's lonely at the top".
In contrast to the "kings of the earth" we see the Lord, "high and lifted up". He inhabits eternity, dwelling in the high and holy place. Yet, a red carpet is always rolled out for humble and lowly people, such as those who were trampled by the "big wheels" of the world. Rather than trample the lowly, our Lord welcomes them and revives their hearts. So, it's never lonely at His top.
No matter where the top is in this world, it's lonely. Getting there can cost you your health, family, friends and even your faith. Why fight your way up the ladder of success when the invitation is extended to join the Ruler of the universe in the highest and holiest place, without price? Come, just as you are, with a humble and lowly spirit. Then, you'll enjoy the revival of heart, and never have to be lonely at His top.


Friday, October 18, 2019

Happy Feet...

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” - Isaiah 52:7
Prior to entering the ministry, I worked at a specialty shoe store fitting and selling shoes. Some shoes were made for orthopedic needs and others were made for glamour. Some people came with special needs, while others with special desires, but everyone left happy. The big question my employer always had was... Would those happy feet carry a happy message? 
The Lord's heart desire was that... "all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God." (vs. 10) Such a goal would involve those who would bring the good news of happiness, as well as publish peace and salvation. Both Israel and the world had a special need that could only be met by the God who reigns. With the promise of such joy (vs. 8), would there be happy feet to carry a happy message?
How beautiful are your feet my friend? Have you received the good news of happiness, peace, and salvation? Has your life been transformed and blessed with great joy by a God who reigns in your heart? If all of this is true, are you busy telling, sharing and passing on this good news? Will your happy feet carry a happy message? 

Thursday, October 17, 2019

"IF"....

"Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea;" - Isaiah 48:18
Have you ever purchased a new lawn hose to water your precious flowers? Was the spigot on the other side of the house? Were you all primed to give your garden a steady flow of a much needed shower? Were you surprised and frustrated when nothing came out of your brand new hose? Did you soon discover that you caused a kink in your hose when you pulled it around the house? Oh, if you had only paid attention.
With all the pushing and pulling to get their own way, Israel couldn't seem to get anything right. The Word of God had been faithfully passed down from one generation to the next. But, it was regularly ignored. The prophetic warnings came with clear instructions on how to repent and turn to the Lord. And, they were ignored as well. The Lord had spoken, taught and lead them, but He was ignored to their loss of rivers of peace and waves of righteousness. Oh, if they had only paid attention. 
The words seem so simple don't they? I suppose the most haunting concept can be wrapped up in one word... "IF". When we reach the end of our rope of godless living and find nothing but turmoil and more dark days ahead, what can we say? Oh, "IF" I had only paid attention to the Lord...my life would have been different. Why wait my friend? Decide today to pay attention and be blessed with rivers of peace and waves of righteousness. 



Wednesday, October 16, 2019

He will carry you...

“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save." - Isaiah 46:3-4
Our little grandson is now walking. And so it goes, he's off into a lifetime of walking on his own. The many months of being carried seemed like such a very long time for the little guy. Then again, whether it's infancy, injuries or down right old age, being carried by someone else can be frustrating. But, what a blessing to have someone who cares enough to carry us when needed.
The Lord had shown the foolishness of an Idolatry that involved man-made gods that had to be carried. He now reminded the people of Israel that it's God that carries His people. He was there from the womb to old age. He made, bore, carried and saved. He alone is God. Throughout the years, there were so many occasions that Israel needed to be carried, even when she resisted, He was there. What a blessing to have a God who cared enough to carry them when needed.
One of our greatest weaknesses is the pride that resists being carried by someone else. Like our little grandson Nate, once we can do it ourselves, we just don't want any more help. But, as we move through the seasons of life, we all face unexpected challenges that can rob us of our independent abilities. These are the days when we should welcome and  treasure our God and His people who care enough to carry us when needed. 


Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Life long commitment...

“You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”;  fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." - Isaiah 41:9-10
My wife and I have watched" Bluebloods" (a police drama) for ten seasons. As those seasons developed, so did a romance between two lead characters. As marriage came into view, they wrote their own vows, which read as follows: "Groom: I will always have your back. If you fall behind I will wait up. Bride: I will earn your respect and pay you respect every day we have. Groom: I’ll be your scout, your night watchman, your cavalry. Bride: Your medic, your chaplain in our army of two. Groom: No retreat, no surrender. You can count on me. Bride: You can count on me." Well, it certainly strayed from traditional vows, but what a thoughtful and thorough life long commitment!
In a far greater way, the Lord called Israel to be His own, and He promised to never cast her off. His vow was one sided... He would be: "with her", "her God", "her strength", "her help", and always "uphold her". With the same devotion He promises us today, the following in John 6:37 "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." and Hebrews 13:5-6: "I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Wow, what a thoughtful and thorough life long commitment!
As you can see, it's much more than a religious belief to know God. It's a true love relationship. He calls us to His side and promises to never cast us off and to never leave us or forsake us. The only logical response is found in our verse above... "Fear not and be not dismayed." Why? To put it In contemporary lingo, because He'll always have your back. So, you can count on Him. Now, that's commitment! 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Is there any hope?

"Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. . - Isaiah 38:17
Illness and physical pain can cause overwhelming frustration. It can reduce our capacity to focus and, for the believer, even our faith. We are often haunted with the worst case scenario and may wonder if we've come to the end.  We are desperate for hope. 
For Hezekiah, it was even worse, the warning of verse 1 seemed final, “Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you shall die, you shall not recover.” Yet, the King held firm to faith in his God. The Lord heard his prayer, saw his tears and responded with hope.
You may feel great this morning my friend, but will your health change? If it does, how will you respond? What will you do if the Doctor's report comes back with little hope? Follow the example of Hezekiah and seek the One who delivered his life in love. With the Lord, there's always hope. 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Who's in charge?

"This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?" - Isaiah 14:26-27 
Boards, committees, clubs, or governments ... All of these need a leader. People will often fight to the death to hold the position of "leader". They may not be qualified, but power and prestige is what they want. Good leadership has far higher and more selfless goals than this. To that end, the best leader is the one who understands and knows who's really in charge.
The Sovereign work of God over the nations, throughout the ages, is a sobering and fearful fact. No one can resist what the Lord purposes, and no one can turn back His hand. The pages of history show that Babylon tried, Assyria tried, as well as Philistia, but they all failed. Their great leaders thought, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’" (Isaiah 14:14) to no avail. They just didn't know who's really in charge.
No matter what your position is in life my friend, you're leading someone. Take note of the many examples found in the Word of God. Some show us what to do, some show us what not to do, and some show us that good leaders always know how to follow THE Leader. Always take time to discover God's plan and then make it yours. Never forget who's in charge. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Get going ...

"Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD:" - Isaiah 37:14–15
Where did we turn, when as children, we skinned our knee or came home with a black eye? Who did we look to for help and comfort? Interestingly enough, as we grow older, we tend to take care of our injuries and insults all by ourselves. Even when we are stressed to the limit, we rarely seek help from anyone. We simply try our best to "tough it out", because "when the going gets tough, the tough get going"... but where are they going?
Hezekiah was a great and godly king, who led Israel back to the Lord. In addition to restoring the temple, he reinforced defensive fortifications, increased the number shields and weapons and organized strong combat forces. So, when a threat came to the gates of his kingdom, what would he do? As a tough, battle readied Sovereign, it was time to get going, but where was he going? ... straight to prayer.
Has your self confidence and "I can do" attitude gotten you in trouble lately? Have you missed the sage counsel of a parent, older brother or sister? Did you face the enemy and find that your strength was lacking? So, did you turn to anyone for help, wisdom or provision? Don't let pride get in the way my friend. Follow the lead of a powerful king who knew when It was time to get going ... straight to prayer.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

Stubborn hearts...

“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord, “who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt!" - Isaiah 30:1–2
Parenting can be one of the greatest privileges in life. Yet, raising teenagers can be the most frustrating experience ever. Happy, obedient and receptive young people suddenly change, and every other person in the world has better ideas than mom and dad. They live on the wild side without any sense of the cost. Nothing can change their mind, because an immature heart is a stubborn heart.
The hearts of God's people added sin to sin every day. In days gone by they were a grateful and obedient people, but then they changed. Prophets regularly reminded them of the Lord's ways versus their sinful ways. Basically, they knew better, but they ignored their God and made other plans for refuge and protection. Nothing could change their mind, because an immature heart is a stubborn heart.
Growing up is never easy and there are always rocky roads to get over. But, if we won't grow up, life will become harder and harder. Isaiah used the reference "children" with distinct purpose. The Lord hadn't rejected Israel, but he planned to correct their ways and help them grow up in Him. He desires the same for every believer today and graciously works to change our stubborn hearts to mature hearts. 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Cornerstone...

"thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: ‘Whoever believes will not be in haste.’ - Isaiah 28:16
The last church building in which I served as pastor was built in 1911. The dated cornerstone is still quite visible on the front corner. It served as more of a date than a supportive foundation stone. In earlier years a cornerstone was the first foundation stone laid, from which all other stones were aligned. It was intended to keep the building straight and secure.
When the Lord spoke of setting a Cornerstone in Zion He was referring to the coming of Messiah Jesus. He is the only tested, precious and sure foundation stone. As the kingdom of God continues to be built, the "plumb line" (vs. 17) of righteousness is aligned with Christ our Cornerstone. In this way, the work of God will always be straight and secure.
The image is more than a picture to inspire believers in their daily walk. It enables us to stay on point as "living stones being built up as a spiritual house" (1 Peter 2:5). If our house is to withstand the storms of trials and temptations, (Matthew 7:24-25) we must keep "plumb" by "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" ... our Cornerstone and sure foundation. Only then will we be straight and secure. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

No more death...

"He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken." - Isaiah 25:8
When we were young, we foolishly thought that we would live forever. Then we experienced our first loss of a friend or family member. Death became a cruel reality and we knew that it was only a matter of time for us. But, what if there could be no more death?
Well, "the Lord has spoken". Long before our Savior's birth, the promise was made... "He will swallow up death forever". Just imagine, the sting of the grave gone and no more tears. Centuries of sorrow have passed and we continue to suffer such grief, but the day is coming when there will be no more death. 
In the very last book of the Bible, the apostle John is given a vision of things to come..."And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4) Be encouraged my friend, a new day is coming! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Bitter tears...

"Therefore I said: “Look away from me; let me weep bitter tears; do not labor to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.” - Isaiah 22:4

"The Age of Reason" had such an influence on the churches and schools of the late 1700s that a need for revival was sought. Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathan Edward's and president of Yale University, helped to create a national evangelical movement called the "The Second Great Awakening". This effort was intended to "re-church" America and In 1800, Dwight wrote the hymn "I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord", which contained the words: "For her my tears shall fall". 
Isaiah prophecied at a time when spiritual declension was wide spread in Israel. The rampant apathy and ungodly pursuits had finally led to the outpouring of God's chastening wrath. The Lord's call for repentance had been ignored, "In that day the Lord God of hosts called for weeping and mourning... and behold, joy and gladness." (22:12-13) The prophet now wept bitter tears for his people.
When you and I see the materialism, spiritual apathy and pleasure seeking of the evangelical church, do we weep? When we hear the reports of hatred and rage across our nation, do we recognize the need for revival? Revival, or a "great awakening" is all about restoring spiritual passion, power and influence to a repentant people of God. And I don't believe that it will come until we fall on our knees in prayer and weep bitter tears for His church.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Try to remember...

"For you have forgotten the God of your salvation and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and sow the vine-branch of a stranger, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow, yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain." - Isaiah 17:10–11
There was a time when I just forgot because I had too much on my mind, but now I just plain forget. Whether it be a busy schedule or age, forgetfulness can be controlled. That's why calendars, little note pads and note apps are made. We can keep track in many ways, but in the end we only remember what we want to remember.
In the midst of divine judgments of various nations, the Lord returned to focus on his people. He was the God of their salvation and the Rock of their refuge. But, they forgot his blessings and place in their life and worship. They went about their daily routine hoping for a full harvest, but only grief and pain came. Why? Because they only remembered what they wanted to remember.
Let's be honest with ourselves... Some forgetfulness isn't because of stress or age, it's simply a matter of choice. Then, when we begin to experience sad and disappointing results, we wonder why. Jesus made it very clear when he said in John 15:5... "I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing." Be wise and "want" to remember the Lord... and then remember. 


Sunday, October 6, 2019

True Love...

"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised." - Song of Solomon 8:6–7
Speaking of her marriage, a fellow believer once quipped to me, "you can't live on love". In the context of our conversation I had to agree. Love won't pay the rent. But, when it comes to the bond and durability of any marriage, love is an absolute necessity. The tsunamis of disaster, the floods of grief or, even the outpouring of wealth can quickly dissolve any union without true love.
How intense are the words of the bride for her beloved! She desired nothing less than to be a seal on his heart and arm. She knew that the strength of true love was the only power that would hold them together throughout the years. Could it be that her knowledge of true love came from knowing the Source of true love? ... "I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love" (Hosea 11:4).
Every marriage, family, and friendship is only as strong as the love that binds it together. Some people think that they can fall out of love, but when God is the source, you have unquenchable love. That is the kind of love that will fight to survive, no matter how high the waves or how strong the winds of hardship. It might not pay the rent...but it will certainly weather the storm!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

On His Shoulder...

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6
Atlas... condemned to hold up the celestial heavens for all eternity. And so, Greek mythology paints a rather burdensome picture. Go forward a few centuries and you see poor Atlas used as an icon for moving companies that carry earthly treasures from place to place. Then again, on any given day, we all might feel like Atlas... carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.
In the dark days of distress and evil domination, words of hope were prophesied. A Messiah would be coming... One who would be called "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Finally, a glorious light at the end of a tumultuous tunnel. But, most promising was the fact that the "government shall be upon his shoulder". The people of God would no longer need to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders.
How dark and distressing has life been for you my friend? Do you feel overwhelmed by the press and stress of it all? Are you trying to carry every bit of it by yourself? Do you feel like your middle name is Atlas? Well, there is hope, for the promised Messiah has come. Jesus is calling... "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." - (Matthew 11:28) He has come so the weight of your world will be on HIS shoulder.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Where do you turn?

"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple." - Isaiah 6:1
I was sitting in class on November 22, 1961 when the announcement came over the loadspeaker that President Kennedy had died. The moment was unexpected and quite shocking as a number of students broke down in tears. As the years passed I stood with people of all ages and circumstances, who faced their own shocking and unexpected loss. At that moment, in the midst of confusion and tears, the question haunts... "Where do you turn?"
"The king had died. Uzziah had brought many benefits to the country and had introduced an era of prosperity and peace. But now Judah was without the king." - Edward J. Young, The Book of Isaiah. The nation had suffered a great loss and was drifting into anarchy. For just this time Isaiah was given a reassuring vision of God on his throne, high and lifted up. The answer rode on the clouds in majesty to the haunting question... "Where do we turn?"
The ages have passed, but the King of the ages still reigns, my friend. Has unexpected and shocking loss overwhelmed you? Are you still struggling with the grief and confusion of it all? Are there days when you are just numb to life? Then "be still and know that he is God" (Psalm 46:10), finding hope in the One who is still "high and lifted up" . He will also lift you up in his "Everlasting arms" (Deuteronomy 33:27) so you will never again be haunted by ... "Where do you turn?"

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Don't wait...

 "It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." - Isaiah 2:2–3
There was a time when those who chose to be somewhere else other than church  on Sunday, were people of little faith. Today, even those who are believers consider themselves to be quite faithful by attending church once every three to four weeks. According to Church leadership.org, every year more than 4000 churches close their doors compared to just over 1000 new church starts! When will spiritual hunger and passion return?
Isaiah prophesied at a time that was quite similar to our day. The words of Isaiah 1:4 make the point clearly... "They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged." The heart of God's people had grown cold and their worship superficial. Today's passage, which is repeated in Micah 4:1-3, gives hope for a new day. In that day, the house of the Lord will be established and spiritual hunger and passion will return. 
We who have experienced the great transformation of the new birth have no reason to wait for a new day. Now is the time to come to his house, that he may teach us his ways so we may walk in his paths. Now is the time to seek the Lord every day privately and every week with the congregation of fellow believers. Don't wait for spiritual hunger and passion to return. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Red on red ...

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lordthough your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." - Isaiah 1:18 
The story is told of a young boy who grew up in Great Britain. On one occasion while quite ill, he watched a parade from his bedroom window. He found it quite unusual that the Royal Guards were dressed in white, rather than their usual red uniform. His mother pointed out that he was looking through a rose tinted widow, and red on red becomes white. 
The atoning work of our Lord is hinted at in a number of ways throughout the prophetic Scriptures. From the earliest moment in Genesis 3:21, the provision of God's forgiveness of sin is spoken of in connection with sacrifice. Leviticus 17:11 tells us that ... "it is the blood that makes atonement by the life." We find this truth revisited again and again all the way to Revelation 7:14 when we read ... "They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." You see, our crimson red sin only becomes white as wool when covered by the red blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Red on red becomes white.
How about it my friend? With what have you been trying to cover your sins? How have you tried to remove the stains of ungodly living? Where has your hope been placed for God's forgiveness? The Bible speaks of only one way for crimson sins to become white as wool. Ephesians 1:7 says it quite well ... "In him (Jesus Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" Red on red becomes white.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

At the end of the day...

"The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." - Ecclesiastes 12:13–14
You are stopped for a traffic violation. You argue your case until you're blue in the face. When it's all over..You pay the ticket. You receive your new property tax bill with an unexpected increase. You write a letter and visit town hall to express you're profound displeasure. When all is said and done...You pay the bill. Somethings in life may not seem fair, but ... At the end of the day you just do the right thing.
Solomon enjoyed more wealth and wisdom than any other. But, over the years he sank into gross materialism and became so self absorbed that he lost sight of spiritual values. He saw all the inequities that exist "under the sun" and languished over the ultimate passage of life. But ultimately, he learned that his whole duty in life was to fear God and obey His Word... At the end of the day you just do the right thing.
Your life was full of hopes and dreams. Pleasures and opportunities were constantly knocking at your door. Over time you may have achieved success in all of the above or very little, only to feel empty. Have you finally come to a point of complete frustration? Just remember, after "all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man"... At the end of the day just do the right thing. 


Monday, September 30, 2019

Are you prepared?

"It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart." - Ecclesiastes 7:2
The day my wife and I were married, her great uncle was talking with me before the service. As a retired pastor, he was chosen to start the ceremony and I was expecting great words of wisdom about the joys and challenges of married life from Uncle George. But, as he started to reminisce, the impact of funerals became the topic of discussion. As years passed, I too found that hearts are far more open to eternal matters in sorrow than celebration.
Solomon had more frolicking and party time than most. The Queen of Sheba noted in 1 Kings 10:8... "Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!" The years of joy and great achievements were many and quite impressive. But in the end, with eternity in view, this Blessed King of abundance preferred the house of sorrow to the courts of celebration. 
Think of it ... Weddings, graduations, and parties are all about the here and now. We rejoice in the moment. But, this life is short and then we enter "the rest of the story"... Eternity. Funerals serve us well if "the living lay it to heart". The Lord speaks sobering words to Israel in Amos 4:12... "prepare to meet your God, O Israel!” We can celebrate today, but eternity awaits... Are you prepared? 

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Do likewise ...

"Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If  you say, "But we knew nothing about this," does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?" -- Proverbs 24:11-12
Not too long ago, a man was stabbed in New York City while saving a woman from an attacker. He lay dying in a pool of his own blood for more than an hour while several people walked past without calling for help. A surveillance video showed that some passers-by paused to gawk at Hugo Alfredo Tale-Yax and yet kept on walking. Many readers were horrified at the story, but how many would have done likewise?
The Scriptures call us to social responsibility. We might choose to steer clear of the inconvenient and excuse ourselves with such words as "... we knew nothing about this". But, however we settle our minds about the situation; the Lord knows and weighs our hearts. The story of the "Good Samaritan" in Luke 10:25-37 is in direct contrast to the above account. At the conclusion of his teaching Jesus simply stated, "Go and do likewise".
As a child of the King and recipient of his wondrous grace, how socially compassionate are you? Every day brings new opportunities to impact your community for Christ. When that broken life comes into your path, how will you respond? Will you do likewise as those who passed by? Or will you do likewise as the Good Samaritan? How will you make a difference for Jesus today?

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

One day at a time...

"What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man." - Ecclesiastes 3:9-13
Have you ever heard the phrase..."He can't see the forest for the trees"? This refers to those people who are so involved with the details of life that they fail to live life. John Lennon added to the subject these lyrics... "Life is what happens when you are making other plans." But, some wisely allow God to make everything beautiful in it's time, and then treasure His gift to ... live life one day at a time - to His glory.
Solomon said... "For everything there is a season, and  a time for every matter under heaven" (3:1). Just imagine - birth, death; planting, harvesting; killing, healing; breaking down, building up; weeping, laughing; mourning, dancing; casting away, collecting; embracing, refraining; seeking, losing; keeping, disposing; tearing, sewing; silence, speaking; loving, hating; war, peace. Wow! life sure is complex. But, Solomon also noted that God is working out all the eternal details, leaving us the gift to... live one day at a time - to His glory.
When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses my friend? Have you taken time today "to be joyful and do good"? Or, have you been so busy making other plans that life has simply passed you by? Remember, "the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23), and that means today. Be wise and take pleasure in God's gift to... live one day at a time - to His glory. 


Friday, September 27, 2019

Loving Life?

"So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind." - Ecclesiastes 2:17
I have counseled a vast number of people over the years who have been depressed. Some of them had it all and others had very little. Prosperity, prestige or popularity simply didn't cut it. All that they could see under the sun were unfulfilled hopes and dreams. So, they hated life.
Solomon had it all, but in the end he was depressed. He was wealthy, wise, and wonderfully popular. But, it was all empty of meaning, with little lasting significance. He studied and labored to achieve more and more, yet it seemed to be less and less. His sight was reduced to seeing nothing more than what was done under the sun. So, he hated life.
The lyrics of an old pop song say... "On a clear day you can see forever". How about it my friend? Can you see forever today? You'll never see very far when you're just looking under the sun. It's always a clear day for the heart that looks above the sun, into the face of The SON. That person can see forever, and truly loves life! 


Thursday, September 26, 2019

STOP!

“If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth. For pressing milk produces curds,  pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.” – Proverbs 30:32-33
Speed limits; they exist for a variety of reasons, but one of the most significant is safety. We can drive at excessive speeds and arrive safely today, but eventually such driving will catch up to us. Some people make light of traffic laws until they or a loved one ends up in the hospital or worse. There are some things that you just need to stop before you get hurt.
The words of wisdom that we read above are written for many reasons, but one of the most significant is safety. One should be careful when they make light of the spiritual dangers that come with ignoring Biblical wisdom. Time may slip by without ramifications, but eventually "pressing anger produces strife." There are some things that you just need to stop before you get hurt.
How cautious do you live your life my friend? Are you careful to follow the Biblical wisdom that sets protective perimeters on your conduct? Or do you take sinful activity lightly and fail to recognize its damaging effect? Well, "If you have been foolish"... you just need to stop before you get hurt.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Walk with the wise...

"Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered." -- Proverbs 28:26
Over the years I have been blessed by a number of great preachers and teachers. Not all of them were formally educated, so they were referred to as "self-taught". Most of these were much more than "self-taught" since they steeped themselves in the wisdom of the ages. He who walks with the wise is wise.
Solomon warned that those who are satisfied with their own insight are foolish indeed. The limits of self focused knowledge are many and the depth of such a one is quite shallow. Whether one has formal degrees or not, they need to remain a student to make a difference in life. He who walks with the wise is wise.
What efforts are you making to add to your learning my friend? Who have you chosen to serve on your "faculty" of teachers? Have you remained a student of the Scriptures, no matter how many years have passed? Don't rest in what you already know, because there is so much more to learn. He who walks with the wise is wise.


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

"Always"...

"Like a bad tooth or a lame foot is reliance on the unfaithful in times of trouble." -- Proverbs 25:19
I learned to depend on faithful legs and feet when I was very young. They came in handy the day I came across a snake while playing near my school. And on the evening I was chased by a German shepherd while delivering newspapers. Yet, over the years they have failed me, when I suffered a broken ankle or two knee surgeries. I have learned that faithfulness means "always", not "sometimes".
In the early days of Solomon's reign he learned that he could never rely on the unfaithful. As he wrote, he likened such people to a bad tooth or a lame foot in times of trouble. They made life difficult at best and hindered progress in numerous ways. There are only two ways to serve a cause; faithfully or unfaithfully, there is no middle ground. Faithfulness means "always", not "sometimes".
Are we not incredibly grateful for a Savior who is consistently faithful? When we seek the Lord's help in times of need, is he not dependable without fail? Then why do we find it so hard to be faithful to Him? Before you speak with strength of conviction my friend, consider the faithfulness of God in contrast to yours. How do you fair in times of trouble? Do you always finish the job and keep your word even when it hurts? (Psalm 15:4) Remember; faithfulness means "always", not "sometimes".

Monday, September 23, 2019

Pay Attention...

"Pay attention and listen to the sayings of the wise; apply your heart to what I teach, for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart and have all of them ready on your lips." -- Proverbs 22:17-18
A new school year has begun and students range from prekindergarten to graduate school. Lessons will be taught this year that will prepare these young people for further education and a future career. Some will become skilled in their knowledge and others will pass the time, learning just enough to graduate. Those who pay attention and apply their heart will succeed.
Spiritual growth is no different. A survey released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, aimed at testing religious knowledge within the churched community, revealed a major lack of Biblical understanding. This should not be a shock. Even among true believers, some make every effort to be skilled in their Bible knowledge and others just skate along, learning just enough to warm their hearts or ease their pain. Those who pay attention and apply their heart will grow.
What about you my friend? What do you know and understand from the Scriptures? Have you been studious enough this last year to experience a marked spiritual growth? Have you added to your Biblical insight in such a way that you are ready to share with others? Remember, those who pay attention and apply their heart will grow.


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Progress ...

"Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." - Proverbs 9:9
When Pablo Casals reached 95, a young reporter threw him a question: “Mr. Casals, you are 95 and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice six hours a day?” And Mr. Casals answered, “Because I think I’m making progress.” Those who are truly wise are those who are making progress.
When we come to Christ, our lives are changed forever. We have new hearts and the presence of the Holy Spirit to give us guidance. What more do we need? In answer to this question Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:18, "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Spirituality is a forward movement of growing wiser every day. The righteous continually add to their learning and make progress.
What are you doing to add to your Biblical understanding? What are you reading this week that will improve your spiritual qualities? When was the last time you took a book of the Bible apart piece by piece to gain Godly wisdom? Be wise by making progress.

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Saturday, September 21, 2019

Always learning...

"Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise... Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge." -- Proverbs 19:20, 27
What's the difference between a good Doctor and a great Doctor... or a good mechanic and a great mechanic? One who is well trained in their field will be good. But one who continues to train throughout their career will be great. The difference is this: one has learned and the other is always learning.
This principle was understood by Solomon as he emphasized the need to listen and accept instruction to be wise. At the same time, those who stop listening to instruction will stray. The humble lifelong learner will be wise indeed, because they not only have learned, but are always learning.
Never believe that you finally know the Bible and all its teaching. There is always more to learn and much more to master. The difference between a good disciple and a great disciple is this: one has learned and the other is always learning. Which will you choose to be?


Friday, September 20, 2019

What a Friend...

"A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." -- Proverbs 18:24
Journalist Walter Winchell was once quoted to say, "A friend is one who walks in when the rest of the world walks out." In day to day living, we may have a vast number of companions or acquaintances, but only a friend will walk alongside through the storms of life. True friendship will always provide a "bridge over troubled waters".
While we might recall one or another friend in life, Solomon speaks of a friend who sticks closer than a brother. As the ages passed, there came one who is a friend above all friends. This one said "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13)  Joseph Scriven put it this way, "What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!" With Jesus as your friend, you will have the greatest "bridge over troubled waters".
Having given thought to our "friend who sticks closer than a brother", do you stick close to him? Friendship is a two way relationship and Jesus also said, "You are my friends if you do what I command." Do you turn to your friend only when you need him, or do you spend time with him every day and follow his counsel? Friendship needs to be nurtured to grow strong for the storms of life. Take Jesus as your friend, for he is the real "bridge over troubled waters".


Thursday, September 19, 2019

Godly Counsel...

"Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed." -- Proverbs 15:22
One of the age old questions throughout life is: "How can I know the will of God?" From the earliest years, the child of God searches for the answer. Books have been written and workshops given beyond number. At times we would just like God to make it simple and write his will on a wall. The search continues for an easy way to discern his leading.
Over the years the insight has been given from every known source; search the Scriptures for principles of wisdom, pray for the Spirit of God to guide and evaluate the providential working of God. One last, but most important resource is to seek the counsel of many advisors. How quickly do we go astray when we fail to seek Godly counsel?
But be careful to seek counsel in the right way my friend. Choose those whose hearts are clearly in tune with God's heart. Find those who give evidence that they are led by the Word of God and his Holy Spirit. Be prepared to accept Godly counsel, even when it might disappoint your expectations. If you seriously desire to know and follow the will of God, he will never fail to "guide you in paths of righteousness for his names sake". (Psalm 23:3)


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Freely give ...

"One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." - Proverbs 11:24-25
Occasionally a well pump needs to be primed. In rural areas these are hand pumps and often require water to get water. By pouring water into the pump and cranking, you will be rewarded with fresh water in abundance. This sounds easy enough, but when you are parched and you have to give up the only water you have for the promise of more than enough, holding back is a great temptation.
Solomon knew that generosity is like a fresh spring of living water in every situation. Others are blessed and our own soul is refreshed when we are generous. In turn, when we freely give, we find that we freely receive. Jesus notes in Matthew 10:8 that all we have has been freely given"Freely you have received...". And simply put, since all that we have is from God's grace, holding back should never be a temptation.
Take a moment and make an inventory list of all your God-given blessings. Never mind what anyone else may have, just focus on your blessings in life. Now ask the Lord how you can be a generous blessing to others. Don't be tempted to hold back... "Freely you have received, freely give". (Matthew 10:8)

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