Friday, January 31, 2020

Tear down or build up?

"But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him... a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory" - Matthew 12:14, 20
Adolf Hitler and Mother Theresa both made a dramatic impact on their world. One brought death and the other life. One was all about domination while the other was all about submission. One spewed out condemnation and the other compassion. One was filled with hate while the other was driven by love. One tore his world down while the other built hers up.
The New Testament world was impacted by the Pharisees and the Lord Jesus. The one was a group of powerful religious men and the other was the Son of God. The most profound difference is found in the fact that the Pharisees were selfish leaders and Jesus was a selfless leader. The Pharisees were filled with hate while the Lord was driven by love. The one tore others down, while the Other built them up.
Looking at such a contrast, how do you seek to make an impact on your world my friend? Are you all about power or pardon, malice or mercy, hate or love? You can choose to impact men by the ways of men or the ways of Jesus. One will tear others down and one will build them up. Which will you choose?



Thursday, January 30, 2020

No Middle Ground...

“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned." -- John 5:28-29
We go through school and receive grades according to our academic performance. The more we study, the better our grade. Then comes that frightful day when we take the road test for our driver's license. We don't get a better grade if we study more. We don't get an "A", "B" or "C" license; we either pass or fail by our actions. It's one way or the other, there's no middle ground.
The entrance exam for eternity is one of those tests that one either passes or fails. It's all a matter of choice in this life. If we choose life in Jesus and are changed into righteous people, we will pass into eternal life. On the other hand, should we choose to embrace evil throughout life, we will fail into eternal condemnation. It's one way or the other, there's no middle ground.
There are many people who expect their eternal destiny to be determined on a graded scale. You may figure that enough good works will bring a good grade and a well deserved place in heaven.  But the simple truth is, we pass or fail by our action of choice. Jesus is the only way, there's no middle ground. How will you choose?


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

At once...

"One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years... Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked." -- John 5:5, 8-9
Down through the years there have been many charlatans who have offered dramatic changes for those in need. They put on a great show and often include amazing examples. People come from great distances to be quickly and permanently healed or delivered from various conditions. But when the dust settles very little is changed and the crowds move on to seek someone else who might have that special answer for their need.
As we consider the above passage we notice that when the Lord enters the picture there is great and miraculous change. No one could just rise up and walk after thirty-eight years of inactivity... except someone who is touched by the Son of God. No matter how severe the condition, when Jesus brings change, He overcomes all obstacles and lasts forever.
Why seek change from those who are limited at best and are powerless to bring lasting change to meet your need. Don't waste years and energy seeking help from empty sources that promise much and deliver little. Turn to Jesus my friend and find out what it means to experience change "at once" and for good.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Out of the box!

"And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, 'Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?' And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'" - Mark 2:16-17
For a year I served the Word of Life Bible Institute as an assistant to the Baker. We made everything from biscuits to wedding cakes. Apart from all the specialty items, our ovens were most often used to bake bread. Bread requires the inclusion of yeast and the yeast must permeate the dough or the bread will never rise. But yeast never works while it sets in the box.
In a way, Jesus was like yeast is to bread. He knew that those who needed to "rise" out of their sin-sick lives needed a Savior. They needed to meet the Lord and be exposed to the Gospel. If Jesus simply stayed in an upper room or some worship center with His disciples, He would never permeate the lives of the lost. The Gospel never works while it sets in a box.
Which are you like my friend? The Pharisee that keeps the knowledge of God to yourself or the Lord who gets out among sinners and spreads the Good news? Like bread, the sin-sick need to be permeated by the presence of the Lord or they will never "rise" out of their bondage to sin. Remember, the Gospel never works while it sets in a box!


Monday, January 27, 2020

Simplicity ...

"The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies." - John 4:49
I stood in the hospital hallway with our family physician. His discussion concerning my father's condition was chock full of medical mumbo-jumbo. I finally stopped him and asked that he just give me the bottom line. Sometimes the best way to deal with life is in simplicity.
An official traveled over 20 miles to appeal for the life of his son. As he approached the subject, Jesus made a point that people would not believe without miraculous signs. At this moment the man could have responded with a detailed defense and argument. Or he could have been offended enough to walk away, but he didn't do either. This father just gave Him the bottom line... "come down before child dies". Sometimes the best way to deal with life is in simplicity.
After you have exhausted every other resource and you come to Jesus, what do you ask? Is your prayer a long detailed explanation about the situation, including all the reasons why you came to the Lord last of all? Do you feel that your words need to be many or the Lord will not be convinced enough to help? Well my friend, remember to whom you are speaking and give Him the bottom line. Sometimes the best way to seek the Lord is in simplicity.

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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Stay the Course ...

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." -- John 4:34-35 
Having lived in old houses all our married life has given our family an appreciation for the ongoing work that is needed. The list of jobs is never-ending and it keeps you going from one spare moment to the next. At times you might think the work is finished, but then you open your eyes and there is much more to be done. Some responsibilities take a lifetime and more.
Jesus was focused on a pressing task and all other pursuits came afterward. He was totally committed to finish the task assigned by the Father. At the same time he points out the ever present harvest of souls standing before us, if we will only open our eyes. The responsibility of reaching the lost and helpless multitude with the gospel is never truly finished. The task will take a lifetime, only to be passed on to the next generation.
Open your eyes my friend, and what do you see? Is it your neighbor, friend, fellow worker, classmate or family member? Do you see the crowds on your way to work or while you're shopping? How many of them are lost and helpless, in need of the Savior? The harvest will take a lifetime, and must be passed on to the next generation. Stay the course and never give up!

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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Satisfaction ...

"Jesus said to her, 'Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.'"  - John 4:13-14
When my boys were younger we would spend many summer days at the beach. Those were the early days of the 7-11 "Big Gulp"... 52 ounces of cold, tantalizing, thirst-quenching liquid. One would think such a huge drink would last for days, but not true. My guys would pass through these barrels of beverage in record time and be thirsty again. There never was enough to satisfy.
When our Lord interacted with the woman at the well, He spoke of spiritual thirst rather than physical thirst. While there were many spiritual "Big Gulps" around, they were always running dry and leaving one thirsty. Jesus offered a drink that would never run out and always satisfy.
Things have never really changed my friend. People are still looking for the ultimate "Big Gulp" that will totally quench the greatest thirst. But, no matter where we turn there is no thirst quencher that will meet our need like the Lord's spring of living water. Remember, only Jesus can satisfy your soul!

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Friday, January 24, 2020

Light changes everything...

"This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." -- John 3:19
Studies tell us that one of the simplest steps of crime prevention is the flood light. As a result of that knowledge we have a number of flood lights installed around our home. I also have more flashlights than can be counted for the same reason. Light changes everything.
Criminals will always run from the light to hide their actions. Darkness hides evil from correction just as it hides vermin and insects from extermination. There are those who live in the dark purposely, so they can continue in their immoral or illegal ways. Other people choose the light of Jesus because they want to change their evil ways. Light changes everything.
Have you chosen to live in the dark, hiding your lifestyle from the light of the Lord? The verdict tells us why some make this choice, but it also tells us that Light has come to provide a way out. Will you make that choice? Remember, Light changes everything.


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Look and Live...

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." - John 3:14-15
"So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live." - Numbers 21:9
Let's consider the words of an old gospel song by William A. Ogden today, "I’ve a message from the Lord, hallelujah! This message unto you I’ll give, ’Tis recorded in His word, hallelujah! It is only that you “look and live.” The quality of faith has always been the key to spiritual life with the Lord. It's all settled when we "look and live".
Jesus dealt with a religious leader who was raised with all the legal demands of Pharisaical teaching. His question in verse 9 says it all, "How can these things be?" Nicodemus was so tied to doing that he couldn't understand the simplicity of faith. Jesus took Him back to the moment in Numbers 21 when life was restored by gazing in faith at a bronze serpent. From the days of Moses to those of Jesus, to this day, it's always been the same; a new heart will only come to those who "look and live".
Have you ever turned your eyes to Calvary for forgiveness and new life my friend? And do you exercise that same faith every day by turning your eyes upon Jesus to find strength for the journey? Another old gospel song by Helen H. Lemmel calls to us as well, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace." From the first  moment we turn to Jesus for life to every daily challenge, the life of faith is all wrapped up in these three words, "look and live".


Wednesday, January 22, 2020

More Amazing...

"... Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” -- John 2:9-10
You shop for a new car. The salesman treats you like a long lost brother and after your purchase you're lost again. The car you buy is absolutely amazing for a while, then time passes and it's not so amazing anymore. That's how life is: things seem to get less amazing every day. Is there anything that gets more amazing over time?
Our Lord's first miracle tells us so much about his future ministry in our lives. When we first come to the Lord it is so amazing. The sense of peace and joy is overwhelming and we wonder if the feelings will last. But as time passes the peace and joy only grows stronger and deeper. Far from the way of our world, when the Lord does his work, it only gets more amazing over time.
It was best said in Isaiah 55:2, "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare." Choose wisely my friend and look to the Lord for his provision. When he blesses, it only gets more amazing over time.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Share your joy...

"Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus." -- John 1:40-42
I wanted to tell the world the day I got engaged. I also wanted to tell the world on the two days that my sons were born. We all have exciting life changing moments that motivate us to tell the good news to as many people as possible. Why do we make such an effort to spread the news? It's because we want everyone to share in our joy. 
When Andrew found the Lord and spent time with him, the very first thing he did was tell his brother. He was excited about finding the long awaited Messiah and he wanted everyone to know. He was overjoyed with his discovery and couldn't keep it to himself. He wanted everyone to share his joy.
Since you came to the knowledge of the Lord how has your life changed? Has the Lord blessed you in tremendous ways? Who have you told about these wonderful things? Why not be an Andrew today and share your joy with everyone?


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?