Monday, January 20, 2020

Grace upon grace...

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." - John 1:16
I grew up on eastern Long Island. The ocean was my constant haunt and the beach is to this day my favorite place to relax and reflect. Two days ago I turned 69 and the Atlantic waves have pounded through most of those years. Yes, sometimes in quiet moments I can hear the crashing surf hammering the shore, one wave followed by the next... wave upon wave.
The works and wonders of God's creation speak to us daily of His amazing grace. This grace is the spectacular gift of God that comes to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is by His grace we are saved (Ephesians 2:8) and by His grace that we are strengthened (2 Corinthians 12:9). On the day I came to Christ His grace came crashing into my life and every day thereafter His grace has hammered the shores of my very soul... grace upon grace.
Are you distressed by the pressures of life my friend? Do you feel overwhelmed by unending demands from every corner? Well, come to the shores of Calvary and be swept away by the grace of God in Christ Jesus. Allow this amazing grace to cast your every sin into its depths (Micah 7:19) and restore your life like a newborn babe (1 Peter 2:2). And if that day has already occurred some time ago, then be refreshed and strengthened by that same grace that saved your soul... let it wash over you, grace upon grace.


Sunday, January 19, 2020

What are your Priorities?

"Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?" - Luke 5:23
Which is easier... to build a house or a home? To build a house one only needs various building supplies and tools coupled with the right skills. The work can be completed in a few short weeks for anyone to purchase. On the other hand a home takes intangible qualities and innumerable years to achieve. The measure of a Godly home far outshines a well built house.
Likewise, a forgiven soul far outshines a healthy body. To bring healing cost the Lord only a well spoken word, but providing forgiveness cost Him his very life. Consider this; that which is easy lasts but a moment, but that which is hard lasts forever. Yet, we tend to put much more value on that which grows old and easily slips off the scene.
Are you all about the soul or the body my friend? Are your prayers filled with a wide variety of physical needs? Do you spend significant amount of time building the body for good health and looks? That's easy to do, but how committed are you to that which is hard? Jesus made the hard spiritual issue His priority and the easy physical issue secondary. What are your priorities?


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Go Deeper...

"And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” - Luke 5:4-5
During the gold rush of the nineteenth century R. U. Darby quit digging for gold and sold his machinery to a junk man. The junk man sought good engineering advice and picked up where Darby left off. The junk man found an abundance of gold just three feet from where Darby quit. Sometimes it pays to go deeper.
Peter and company were tired and discouraged when the Lord asked them to "Put out into the deep". Yet, out of obedient hearts they followed His counsel and let down their nets. As a result "they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking." (Luke 5:6) The Lord always knows when we should press on and when we follow His advice great blessings will come. It pays to go deeper with Jesus.
Have you grown tired in your spiritual digs my friend? Are you weary in your kingdom labors? Has the fruit been minimal and benefits few? Don't give up, just seek the counsel of the Lord and press on with all your might. In His time and by His grace... it will pay to go deeper.


Friday, January 17, 2020

The Whole Story...

"And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth... When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath." - Luke 4:22, 28
I grew up in the New York metropolitan area and have been a New York Yankee fan since the days of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. This is not very unique since there are more Yankee fans than anyone could number. There is one characteristic about New York fans that proves to be a tough nut to swallow; when the team wins they're loved and when they lose it's the wrath of Khan!
From the very beginning of His ministry the Lord experienced a similar contrast. When His words were gracious, the crowds loved it and when He spoke convicting truth they were filled with wrath. Such people are still with us today; those who are happy to feel good about themselves but never guilty before God.
When you speak to others about Christ my friend, never hesitate to give the bad news and good news. While many people only want to hear comforting words, without the whole truth hearts will never experience conviction. And without conviction there won't be repentance toward God and faith in Jesus. The Lord always told the whole story and so should we.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Success or service?

"And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.' Immediately they left their nets and followed him... Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him." - Matthew 4:19,20,22
We all know the testimony of Tim Tebow, a professed believer, who became a well known sports figure. He merged his faith with his career and drew a lot of attention to himself and his teams. Most significantly is the fact that Tim had his priorities right. During his years playing football he made it a habit to invite some struggling, hurting or devastated person to each game; pay for their flight, room and meals. He would have them seated in prime seats, visit with them before and after the game and encourage them in their life issues. Tim knew the difference between winning a game and winning a life.
Jesus came along the shore and invited the disciples to follow Him and become fishers of men. He called them away from lucrative businesses and offered them nothing of material gain. He offered them the opportunity to win people to God and a new start in life. These men dropped everything and "Immediately" followed Him. You see, they had their priorities right; they knew the difference between catching a "sole" and catching a "soul"!
As you move into this New Year my friend, do you have your priorities right? Or are you still running the "rat race" looking for the next promotion, pay raise or popularity win? Jesus and such people as Tim Tebow are all about greater values in life. What are your values? Do you know the difference between a life of selfish success and a life of selfless service? Which will you choose?


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Soul Bread...

"But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” - Matthew 4:4
We have a number of great bakeries in our community. Their cakes, pies and pastries are just great. But the breads are a real drawing card. You can find any kind of bread that you need or want; hot, fresh and quite tasty. The only problem comes when we eat too much bakery bread and not enough of soul bread.
In the face of spiritual battle Jesus drew upon the Word of God over and over again. He knew the Word and the way of proper application. Apart from His being the very Son of God, our Lord had grown up in a pious home where the Word was taught and practiced. He was well nurtured with more soul bread than bakery bread.
Are you in the early stages of a New Years diet my friend? Are you limiting your visits to the bakery this month? Well, this may be a good decision for your physical health, but be careful about your spiritual health as well. Rather than reducing your intake of soul bread, chow down and fill your life with "every word that comes from the mouth of God."


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Connection and Conduct...

"Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham." - Luke 3:8
I attended Bible College at a school that was centered in a mega-church. People came down the aisle to profess faith in Christ at every service and there were baptisms every week. Yet I would often meet the most evil people in the community that were "saved" and baptized in that church. They claimed a godly connection without a godly conduct.
John cut to the core of true conversion with the words "Bear fruits in keeping with repentance". He took away all hope of being a child of God through family or religious relationship. It really doesn't matter where someone grows up and attends church. Genuine connection with God begins with a repentant conversion that leads to godly conduct.
Where do you trace your beginning with Jesus my friend? That moment may bring nostalgic warmth to your heart, but has your life changed for the better since that time? Have you become more godly and Christ-like from year to year?  Consider the words of 2 Peter 1:10, "Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall." Remember, true godly connection produces godly conduct.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Taken for granted?

"And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, 'If you will, you can make me clean'. Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, 'I will; be clean.'" - Mark 1:40-41
How do you ask for something? Do you frequently say, "If you don't mind would you...?" or "Would you be willing to...?" or "If it wouldn't be too much of a bother would you...?" The intent is to show respect and consideration for the one we are approaching. We are careful not to take them for granted.
This leper approached Jesus with the very same respect and consideration. He was fully confident that the Lord was able to make him clean in the words "you can". But he understood that there was a great difference in what Jesus "can" do and "will" do. While he came with certain faith, he was careful not to take the Lord for granted.
In the passage above we have more than a request made to a friend. This leper came to the Lord of the universe with a very personal need. He came with respect and consideration of the "will" and wisdom of God. Take note my friend and the next time you approach the Lord with a request, give Him the respect that He deserves and the consideration that He knows what is best for His child. Be careful not to take Him for granted.


Sunday, January 12, 2020

What's your plan?

"And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them." - Mark 1:31
People desire good health for a number of reasons. They yearn for renewed strength to travel, play sports or make more money. There is also the undying hunger for "eternal youth" without any real goal. Some people make every effort to prolong the "looks" of youthfulness even when age has taken its debilitating toll. But, what good is health without a plan to use it well.
Peter's mother-in-law didn't hesitate to put her healing to good use for others. When the Lord touched her and lifted her up she immediately began to serve. Her renewed strength was a blessing and she knew just how to show her gratitude. She served the Lord and those who joined Him in ministry. She had new-found health and had a plan to use it well.  
Are you praying for healing and new strength for the days ahead my friend? Should the Lord bless you, what will you do with what He gives? Give it some thought; when you finally have a new lease on life with health and vigor, what's your plan?

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Be a Hero...

"The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him." - Mark 1:12-13 

Someone once said that heroes are made, not born. Well, after his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and 3 other non-commissioned officers had become casualties, Corporeal Alvin C. York, a conscientious objector of World War I, assumed command.  Fearlessly leading 7 men, he charged a machine gun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machine gun nest was taken, together with 4 officers and 128 men and several guns. York was promoted to Sergeant and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, Medal of Honor and nearly 50 more decorations for his heroism. By going where no one would want to go and doing what no one would want to do, York became a hero.
Jesus left heaven's glory, came to earth and was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness. The battle ground was not desirable nor the fight pleasurable. But our Lord went where He was told to go and became our eternal hero. He charged the bastion of Hell and confronted the great enemy with the Sword of the Word and won the day. As with any war there were many more battles that followed, but the victory was achieved by the One who went where no one would want to go and did what no one would want to do and became our hero.
This simple point comes to this my friend; has the Lord directed you into a situation that no one would want to go? Have you hesitated and questioned the wisdom of such leading? Is it possible that the Lord has set the stage for you to do what needs to be done so others might be blessed? Yes, the Spirit still drives His people into the wilderness, but with eternal purpose in mind. You too can win the day... by going where no one would want to go and doing what no one would want to do, for the Glory of God and blessing of others... and become a hero.



Friday, January 10, 2020

The Servant Leader...

"And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. 
" - Luke 2:51
"But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 
" - Matthew 3:15
Every sports team has one head coach and many players. Quite often the best coaches are those who were once players themselves. They are good leaders because they were good followers. A true "servant-leader" understands the value of both qualities in the game of life. Obedience is the prerequisite to oversight.
Jesus is our Lord and Master, yet at one time He was an obedient son and cooperative baptism candidate. He set the example for all "servant-leaders" as mentioned in Hebrews 5:8, "Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered." Obedience is the prerequisite to oversight.
Do you have the qualities to lead others my friend? God may have called and gifted you, but the lessons learned through submission to others are character building. And just as significantly, our continued surrender to the Lordship of Christ is imperative. Obedience is always the prerequisite to oversight.



Thursday, January 9, 2020

Following Instructions...

"When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written" -- Matthew 2:4-5
Instruction booklets are great when we actually follow their directions. I can't remember how many times I skimmed through the booklet, followed my own plan and ended up starting all over again. These booklets were not written for our reading pleasure. Directions are only as good as they are followed.
As a group of foreign dignitaries inquired concerning the birthplace of the Messiah, the answer came quickly. The Biblical Instruction Booklet was immediately opened and the answer was found. The priests and teachers knew where to look for direction, but while others quickly followed, they were satisfied in just knowing. Directions are only as good as they are followed.
What have you learned from your Biblical Instruction Book my friend? Are there steps to take that you have put aside for another time? Have you shared such steps with others, so they might find their way spiritually? Don't just know the Bible... follow its leading as well. Remember, directions are only as good as they are followed!


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Choose Wisely...

"And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, 'Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.'” - Luke 2:34-35
Steve Jobs caused the falling and rising of many geeks in the world. He never apologized for his technological viewpoints, even when they went against the popular flow. In certain ways the computer, cell phone and tablet world has taken one of two paths; people either love or hate Apple products. The simple fact is; you have to make a choice.
In a far more significant and eternal way, Jesus will always cause the falling and rising of people in the world. He is a sign of righteousness and accountability packaged with mercy and grace that is spoken against. And the way an individual responds to His claims will reveal the thoughts of their heart. The simple fact is; you have to make a choice.
You can either love or hate Jesus, but the end result is much more important than which computer you use. Jesus put it this way in John 14:6,"I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." The bottom line is this; you can embrace Jesus or reject Him... but you have to make a choice. And your eternal destiny hangs in the balance. Choose wisely my friend... choose wisely.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Good News...

"And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child." - Luke 2:17 
My first regular job was working on a paper delivery route for the afternoon edition. Some of my customers would be waiting every day for their paper to "read all about it". Today I have an "app" on my phone that gives me the ability to "read all about it" in forty three national newspapers, without  getting ink on my fingers. People have always wanted to know "what's new?"
The shepherds were given a great announcement and the opportunity to be the first on the scene. They observed the wonder of the birth of Jesus and then spread the news throughout their region. In a time of many sad and disturbing news reports, they knew that people would want to hear all about the "Good News".
Have you experienced the gift of new life in Jesus my friend? Are there those in your world that are still in the dark, overwhelmed with the bad news of these dark days? Well, why not join the shepherds in making known your "Good News"? Take the time this week to share your faith with those who are waiting to "hear all about it".

Monday, January 6, 2020

The Right One ...

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." - Matthew 1:21
Over the years I have known some "do it yourself" friends who would use a butter knife as a screw driver. Now, while this use of tableware might work in some cases, the manufacturer had a much different purpose in mind. At one time or another we have all been guilty of using household items in ways beyond their original design. The best plan is to use the right tool for the job.
In the same way, certain members of our society choose to misuse and abuse the coming of Jesus. He didn't come to serve as a political tool to gather votes or to enable positive thinking that would improve sales. When God sent His Son to earth, He had a very distinct purpose in mind. The above verse is quite clear on this issue; He came to "save his people from their sins".
Have you looked to Jesus as your only means of salvation my friend? Have you embraced Him as your source of forgiveness and new life? While the Lord was a great teacher, example and miracle worker, don't ever lose sight of His distinct purpose. He came to save us... from the past penalty, present power and future presence of sins. Jesus alone is the right one for that job.

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Sunday, January 5, 2020

Appreciating Jesus ...

"He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light." - John 1:7-8
For twenty years my wife decorated the front of our old house with beautiful Christmas wreaths. She took great joy in her creations and wanted them to be seen by all who passed by. To achieve this goal she placed two bright flood lights on our front lawn to illuminate her seasonal display. The intention was for people to appreciate the wreaths, not the flood lights.
John came into the world as we read in detail yesterday. He was sent on a mission as we read today. He came as a small light to point others to the great light of Jesus. He was never meant to be THE light, just a small light to point the way. John was given a purpose in life and he faithfully carried out this humble calling. He wanted people to appreciate Jesus, not himself.
You and I have a mission my friend. We were never sent into the world to make great names for ourselves or achieve personal fame. We are greatly blessed because we have a Savior who has given us life, light, and love. And with those wonderful gifts He has given us a divine calling to point others to Him. We are like those flood lights that were on our front lawn at Christmas. We are like John the Baptist sent as a witness. We have been placed on the front line to help others appreciate Jesus, not ourselves.

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Saturday, January 4, 2020

Sunrise...

"because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high" - Luke 1:78
We begin a new year with many resolutions, some of which may have spiritual focus. We may intend to read the Scriptures more, pray more, witness more or serve in our church more. But, are these hopes similar to those of last year and the year before? Our walk with God is filled with many good intentions but failed efforts. How does the Lord put up with our dropping the ball again and again? Because of His tender mercy, the sun rises every morning.
The Hope of Israel and ours is found in the fulfilled promise of Malachi 4:2, "But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall." For those who know, love and fear the Lord there is a tender mercy to allow us new beginnings every day. As little orphan Annie put it, "the sun will come out tomorrow", and when the "sun" is Messiah Jesus there will always be "healing in His wings".
Be encouraged my friend to begin a New Year and new day with hope. When the Lord holds you in His eternal grip, He does so with tender mercy. And you can face every day with the words of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-23, "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."


Friday, January 3, 2020

Life is sacred...

"For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy." - Luke 1:44

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. - Genesis 1:27
The third Sunday in January is designated to specifically remember the Sanctity of Human Life. Why? Because the very existence of every human life is sacred. While the issue of when life begins is battled over by politicians, the Scriptures are very clear as the Lord Himself speaks in Jeremiah  1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Yes, every life is sacred.
Could there be any better picture of a living soul in the womb than in this passage? Before birth, this young prophet in the womb leaped for joy at the sound of Mary's voice. Without reading more into the occasion than we should, let's give thought to the image of God in the womb of every expecting mother. Yes, every life is sacred.
This "leaping baby" grew to be the one who prepared the way for the Son of God, Messiah, King of the Ages, the Great I AM. The incredible value of every child is worth our protective care and investment of prayer. While they need the redemptive work of the Lord, they hold great promise for their generation. This month, consider how you can save the lives of such precious souls through Pregnancy Resource Center of The Poconos at www.pregnancytalk.org or other such ministries in your area. Remember, every life is sacred.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Great things ...

"And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” - Luke 1:38
What are your plans for the New Year my friend? Do you have visions of grandeur or dreams of great success? Do you look for the Lord to bless you with overwhelming abundance? After all, great people who have a great God should have great lives. Do you expect the "impossible" to be done so the world will know that YOU are great? 
In her early years there were great plans for this young woman from Nazareth. But she wasn't concerned about being a great person or having great blessings. She had a servants heart that found satisfaction and joy in God "doing to her according to His word." She found that God's plans brought a great life and made her a great person as a result. Mary had just the right heart for God to perform the "impossible", to show that HE is great.
Yes, I have used the word "great" in abundance. But, "great" is a very relative term my friend. If your life is to be truly great, then God must always be greater than any plan or expectation you may have. As John the Baptist reflected in John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease" So, the question for the day is ... will you seek the "impossible" to achieve God's plans so your world will know that HE alone is great? 

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The surprises of God ...

"Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty" - Luke 1:8
How often do we look long and hard for a job, a car or an apartment only to finally come upon what we need while being busy with life? Quite often we stumble into great discoveries while focused on the necessities of daily tasks. When we least expect it... God Surprises us.
God regularly blesses His people as they are busy in His service. Rather than stepping aside and searching for God's will, we learn that as Zechariah filled his regular post, God met him with a wonderful answer to prayer. When he least expected it ... God Surprised him.
Are you willing to patiently work for the Lord and wait for His provision this year? While you fulfill your calling in work, family and church, God is working behind the scenes. In His time, long pursued blessings will arrive in the midst of daily service, my friend. Be prayerful and faithful and when you least expect it ... God will Surprise you.

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