Sunday, January 31, 2010

Who is this Jesus? - January 31, 2010

Yeshayahu - Isaiah 61-1-2 (From the Tanakh - Jewish Bible)1 The spirit of the L-rd GOD is upon me; because HaShem(The NAME,"LORD",Holy name of G-d) hath anointed me to bring good tidings unto the humble; He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the eyes to them that are bound;2 To proclaim the year of HaShem'S good pleasure, and the day of vengeance of our G-d; to comfort all that mourn;

Isaiah 61:1-2 (New King James Version)1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,

Luke 4:16-21 (New King James Version)16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. 17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

18 “ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

As we go about our daily lives, we that are followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, those who may be searching for the "true" Jesus, and those who wonder what so important about Jesus, we seek the answer to this question, "Who is this Jesus?". Everything we have discussed over these several weeks and all that we will discuss in the coming weeks, about achieving a life that has value and worth for eternity, hinges on the our answer to this question.

The prophet Isaiah came to the Jewish people in Judah in the 8th century before Christ. The Book of Isaiah is a book of prophesy that speaks about the judgement and destruction of Judah (fell to Babylon in 605 B.C.), the coming of a Messiah, the deliverance and return of the people (537 B.C.), and the coming restoration of God's kingdom in Zion. It is interesting to read the lament of the people on their sins against God, as we read here in the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, in Isaiah 59:

1 Behold, HaShem'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear;2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your G-d, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear. ...

11 We all growl like bears, and mourn sore like doves; we look for right, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us. 12 For our transgressions are multiplied before Thee, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are present to us, and as for our iniquities, we know them:

13 Transgressing and denying HaShem, and turning away from following our G-d, speaking oppression and perverseness, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.

And it is then followed by Isaiah's prophesy of a coming Messiah in the same Chapter:

20 And a redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith HaShem.

21 And as for Me, this is My covenant with them, saith HaShem; My spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith HaShem, from henceforth and for ever.

Isaiah then continues this messianic prophesy in Chapter 61, which is noted above, where the Messiah announces his coming and deliverance of the people. For centuries, the Jewish people would recite these verses in their Temples as they were instructed and long for the fulfillment of these words, longing for a Messiah and a Savior.

At the beginning of his 3 1/2 years of ministry, Jesus returns home to the place in which he grew up, walks in to the Temple, and in front of his local congregation announces that he is the fulfillment of an 800+ year old prophesy!

As I read these scriptures in various translations, and read from Jewish texts, and the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, I confirm in my heart and in my mind that Jesus is the fulfillment of the longing of God's chosen people. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the One spoken of in the Old Testament, present from Creation. He is our Lord, God in the flesh, Savior of mankind, and my personal Lord and Savior. That is who he is.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Proper Focus - January 30, 2010

Luke 12:15-21 (New International Reader's Version)15 Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against wanting to have more and more things. Life is not made up of how much a person has."

16 Then Jesus told them a story. He said, "A certain rich man's land produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, 'What should I do? I don't have any place to store my crops.' 18 "Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my storerooms and build bigger ones. I will store all my grain and my other things in them. 19 I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things stored away for many years. Take life easy. Eat, drink and have a good time." ' 20 "But God said to him, 'You foolish man! This very night I will take your life away from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'

21 "That is how it will be for anyone who stores things away for himself but is not rich in God's eyes."

One of the biggest problems in today's society is the proper focus concerning money and the accumulation of wealth. We all get caught up in the pursuit of more and more money. What is your focus in regards to money and what you have been blessed with? Is it to save what you receive only for material possessions and retirement?

In the Book of Luke's version of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was asked to resolve a dispute a man had with his brother, concerning the fair division of their inheritance. Questioning the man as to why he was asking Jesus to be the judge and arbitrator, he related the parable noted above. Note that we are told that the man was rich, and that his lands produced a good crop.

Obviously he had been very blessed, and since "all good things come from above", the right focus would have been to acknowledge God for His blessings, and to seek God as to how he should distribute what he had been given. Instead, the man was focused only on himself, and on top of hoarding what he had for himself, he desired to store away even more. Because of the man's foolish focus on only himself, God takes it all away, even the man's life.

Jesus's teaching is very clear here, and it gives us great food for thought as we consider what Next Worth is all about. God provides us with everything we have; our money and possessions; our very lives. He expects us to have proper focus in regards to the blessings He gives us. The message to the man and audience as well is that his concern is wrongly placed in God's mind.

First, we need to always acknowledge that God is our provider, and second, we need to seek Him when it comes to how we use what we have been given. Third, we need to share the blessings that come to us, be it money or financial, or be it talent or ability. In God's economy it does not matter the amount of money and wealth you have, but the heart in which it is received and how it is ultimately utilized. As you increase your understanding of Next Worth, seek the riches God offers in your investment in the eternal.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Reflection and Worship - January 29, 2010

Psalm 103 (New International Reader's Version)
A psalm of David.
1 I will praise the Lord. Deep down inside me, I will praise him. I will praise him, because his name is holy.
2 I will praise the Lord. I won't forget anything he does for me.
3 He forgives all my sins. He heals all my sicknesses.
4 He saves my life from going down into the grave. His faithful and tender love makes me feel like a king.
5 He satisfies me with the good things I long for. Then I feel young and strong again, just like an eagle.
6 The Lord does what is right and fair for all who are beaten down.
7 He told Moses all about his plans. He let the people of Israel see his mighty acts.
8 The Lord is tender and kind. He is gracious. He is slow to get angry. He is full of love.
9 He won't keep bringing charges against us. He won't stay angry with us forever.
10 He doesn't punish us for our sins as much as we should be punished. He doesn't pay us back in keeping with the evil things we've done.
11 His love for those who have respect for him is as high as the heavens are above the earth.
12 He has removed our lawless acts from us as far as the east is from the west.
13 A father is tender and kind to his children. In the same way, the Lord is tender and kind to those who have respect for him.
14 He knows what we are made of. He remembers that we are dust.
15 People's lives are like grass. People grow like the flowers in the field.
16 When the wind blows on them, they are gone. No one can tell that they had ever been there.
17 But the Lord's love for those who have respect for him lasts for ever and ever. Their children's children will know that he always does what is right.
18 He always loves those who keep his covenant. He always does what is right for those who remember to obey his commands.
19 The Lord has set up his throne in heaven. His kingdom rules over all.
20 Praise the Lord, you angels of his. Praise him, you mighty ones who carry out his orders and obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all you angels in heaven. Praise him, all you who serve him and do what he wants.
22 Let everything the Lord has made praise him everywhere in his kingdom.
I will praise the Lord.

This evening as we take the time to rest after a hard week of work, let's reflect on the goodness and mercy of God. Make it a point in your weekend to praise and worship Him for all He has done. Like Jesus, take time to seek Him privately and intimately. Everything we are we owe to Him. Take the time to rest in Him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Happened? - January 28, 2010

Galatians 2:19-21 (New International Reader's Version)19 Because of the law, I died as far as the law is concerned. I died so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. I don't live any longer. Christ lives in me. My faith in the Son of God helps me to live my life in my body. He loved me. He gave himself for me. 21 I do not get rid of the grace of God. What if a person could become right with God by obeying the law? Then Christ died for nothing!

What is the hardest thing to understand about your trust and belief in Jesus Christ as Savior? For me it was to understand what this "salvation" thing was all about. At the time of my conversion, I knew that I had to do something different in my life. I was completely "lost" in this world, and distressed that if I did not change, I was doomed. When I died, I would find myself standing before a holy and just God without excuse and destined for destruction.

What happened was that I finally understood that I had broken every rule I had been taught (The Law), and there was nothing I could do to make my standing before God right again. I needed something...someone to make it all right. ... Then the light bulb turned on! God showed me a beautiful thing through his Spirit that I didn't have to do anything! God already took care of all of my wrong doing, by having Jesus stand in my place! The only thing I had to do was to accept and believe what God had done on my behalf!It made sense! All that heavy weight of my mistakes, disobedience, junk and funk, was lifted off of my shoulders and spread across the shoulders of Jesus on the cross. Wow!

Paul explains this very situation in his 1st century letter of Galations as noted above. In language we can all understand, The Message says it this way,
Galatians 2:19-21 (The Message)19-21What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man. Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. ... Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.

Before you can focus on a life that gives you Next Worth, be sure that you understand what has happened to you. If you have questions as I did, You may want to seek the council of a fellow believer or your pastor. Be sure to go to God in prayer; He will reveal Himself to you.

If you have any questions about this blog, or ideas and thoughts I present here, please be sure to e-mail me at, or comment on this blog. If you enjoy these daily devotions, please share them with your friends. I hope everyone is encouraged through spending these few moments with God. God Bless!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Faith in Action - January 26, 2010

James 2:14-17 (New International Reader's Version)14 My brothers and sisters, what good is it if people claim they have faith but don't act like it? Can that kind of faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or sister has no clothes or food. 16 Suppose one of you says to them, "Go. I hope everything turns out fine for you. Keep warm. Eat well." And you do nothing about what they really need. Then what good have you done? 17 It is the same with faith. If it doesn't cause us to do something, it's dead.

How do we express our love for God and our belief in Jesus? Has it made a difference in the lives we lead? Can your old friends tell that there is a change in you now that you have gotten involved in following Christ? Is there a change in the way you see the world and those that are in need around you? As followers of Jesus Christ we all need to ask ourselves these questions and examine if we are truly that are living lives of faith.

James, the brother of Jesus, was a leader of the Jerusalem council, and he expresses to us in his letter(said to have been written before 50 A.D)that as Christians, we need to live lives that are consistent with our faith in Jesus Christ. This means that if we truly are trying to follow God's heart, and the example of Jesus, we will show the world that we are Christ's followers by the way we serve and treat others. He charecterizes this using the example of how we treat the poorer believers around us.

If we are truly saved by Christ's sacrifice, our actions for others will show it. It is impossible for us to look upon human suffering without it moving us into action. That doesn't mean that we don't sometimes try to ignore the Spirit of God pulling on our hearts, but we cannot go very far before we are compelled to take action. As we consider lives of giving be sure that we examine our faith, attitudes and actions on behalf of others. As the old Christian folk song goes, "They will know we are Christians by our love".

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How to Give - January 26, 2010

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (New International Reader's Version)6 Here is something to remember. The one who plants only a little will gather only a little. And the one who plants a lot will gather a lot. 7 You should each give what you have decided in your heart to give. You shouldn't give if you don't want to. You shouldn't give because you are forced to. God loves a cheerful giver.

While we are on the subject of giving, we need to examine what God's heart is about it. There are many in this world and in the church that have the wrong idea about the subject of giving. Many refuse to go to church or have even quit attending church because they feel that the church is just after their money. Yes, some are, and that is why it is important to be very discerning when choosing a church to attend. The bigger problem though is that the "world" leads those who are of the world to believe that churches only exist for the money.

Let me share an interesting side note, while we are talking about this. I have several family members who are German citizens, and they have grown up in a very secular, post-Christian environment(which could be our future if we do not get more involved in the culture). Just as our government requires the withholding of monies from our paychecks for Taxes, Social Security and Medicare, the German citizen is subject to a special Church Tax that goes to maintain the country's churches. (Most of these churches have ended up just being Museums really, but there is a small remnant of believers who faithfully attend services.) Because of this special Church Tax, many Germans are very resentful of church, Christianity and religion in general. All this to say, that forced giving never does anything to help others or further sharing God's love for this world.

Paul, writing under the inspiration of God's Spirit, sought to clarify God's heart on giving, in his second letter to the Corinthian church. He sought commend them for their past giving and to encourage them to continue to give more to less fortunate believers. He was not ordering them to give, but he was revealing to them that God believes that good gifts are those that are freely given, from the compassionate heart of the believer. We are to give whatever we want to give, making sure it is done willingly and cheerfully.

If we reflect on our own lives, God has showered us tremendously with good gifts, not only the gift of His own Son, but also everything else that we have. While we consider giving as a part of Next Worth living, let is joyfully consider giving to others as an appropriate response to what God has generously given us.

Monday, January 25, 2010

True Giving - January 25, 2010

Matthew 6:1-3 (New Living Translation)1“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. 2 When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. 3 But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

Because of the tragedy currently going on in Haiti, there has been alot of focus on giving. Every known relief organization is involved and many countries are adding to their effort. In our own country, we have involved many aspects of our government incuding the military, and in the private sector many people are contributing as well. It is fantastic that so much attention has been placed on the plight of these people, but long after the TV cameras leave, and the relief workers head for their homes, the need for giving to the people of Haiti will still remain.

The verse above may seem a little unusual as a foundation of a devotional about giving, but it is apporpriate when you understand the context of it. Jesus spoke these words as part of the Sermon on the Mount, as he was teaching on many important aspects of spiritual living. Many times people give to receive some sort of recognition from others, or to help them feel good about themselves, but what Jesus was emphasizing was the heart of the giver and the attitude behind the gift.

Once you have had your life changed by the power of the Spirit of God, your desire to give originates from a heart of compassion. You are willing to help others without the thought of any benefit that you might receive. It becomes part of your "spiritual DNA". Jesus encourages us to give in complete anonymity, where we " don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing". This is true Next Worth living, where what we do for others is reflected in what we will gain for eternity. Not that our "good deeds" are just for spiritual gain, but they are done in thanksgiving as a result of what has been done for us already in the gift of Jesus's sacrifice on our behalf. When Jesus tells us about rewards that we will receive, it is to give us assurance that what we do in this world has eternal value.

The true givers in places like Haiti, in the desperate areas around the world, and in the lives of the unfortunate around us, are those that continue to give of themselves in countless ways each and every day. They are in the shadows and are rarely seen by anyone but their Father in Heaven, but their efforts feed the hungry, build the shelters and lift the spirits of their fellow man.

My encouragement today is for all of you to get involved in helping the people of Haiti, but do not forget that right giving is a matter of the heart. Once your heart is right with your Father in Heaven, then you can freely give in service to those around you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Trust the Way - January 24, 2010

John 14:1-4,6 (New Century Version)1 Jesus said, "Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. 2 There are many rooms in my Father's house; I would not tell you this if it were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you.3 After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going."...6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

I have often wondered what would happen to me when I died. What would become of all that I had done, good and bad? Would my life have had a positive impact on others? Would I have accomplished what God put me here to do? When I made the decision to not go my own way, but to follow God's plan for me, I started to find out the answers to these and many other questions. God revealed to me the wonderful life available in following Jesus.

As Jesus and his disciples were celebrating his final Passover Feast in Jerusalem, just before his crucifixion, he sought to comfort them with the words above. It is here that he gives clear teaching of what followers of Jesus Christ can expect when they die. To me it was encouraging news, that Jesus was going before me getting things ready, and he would come back for me. God had a place for me! He then went on to make a very profound statement; and to me it meant this, that every other religion, philosophy, action, or thing that I might have followed could not offer me the same opportunity. Nothing else or no one else could show me the way to God but Jesus.

Once I had answered the question of what would happen to me, and I knew where I would go when I died, I was free to pursue what God had in mind for me. I realized that I can do nothing without Him, and for me to accomplish a life that serves others and helps to build what God has in store for my eternity, I would have to seek Him each and every day.

Jesus offers all of us the way to follow, and he tells us that there is something that awaits us at the end of the journey. Have you taken the opportunity to trust God and to trust in Jesus?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

First Things First - January 23, 2010

Matthew 22:37-40 (New International Reader's Version)37 Jesus replied," 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.'—(Deuteronomy 6:5) 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 And the second is like it. 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.'—(Leviticus 19:18) 40 Everything that is written in the Law and the Prophets is based on these two commandments."

What do we need to do to truly serve God? How can we really focus on our what we should be doing in this life, and what is expected of us by God? If you really had to summarize the Bible for someone, you would be able to do it with these verses. Your entire relationship with God and for God can be found here. Even if it seems so simple that all we have to do is contained in a few verses, the reality of trying to follow them to the letter is much harder than we think.

The week before Jesus was going to be tried and crucified as the culmination of his work here on earth, he journeyed to Jerusalem for the final time. During that week, he spent most of his time preaching and teaching in and around the temple. He was questioned and tested frequently by the Jewish leaders of the day, and it was at this time that Jesus gave his strongest testimony as to who he was. The scripture posted above was his answer, on being asked which was the greatest commandment in the Jewish law(this verse was part of the law that God gave us through Moses, when he brought the Ten Commandments to people of Israel; the passage is linked above).

Anyone who was a practicing Jew at the time would know the answer to this question, that all the traditions and practices of their "religion" were focused on this one command, to obey and serve the one true God. Unfortunately many of the Jewish leaders of the day focused more on the works of the law rather than the true spirit or meaning of the law. This resulted in the creation of a hierarchy within the Jewish community that placed the leaders above the people.

It is in these words that Jesus makes it clear to the Jewish leaders and to all of us, what we are to do as followers of God. This occasion is related a little differently in the Gospel of Luke(Luke 10:25-37),where an expert of the law asks Jesus what must be done to "inherit eternal life". Jesus explains the spirit behind what he is teaching by telling them the parable of "The Good Samaritan".

As we chose to live for God, we need to be sure that we are living to serve others. Jesus makes it clear that loving and serving God is the same as loving and serving those around us. It is when we exbibit our faith in God by our actions for others that we are truly doing what God expects of us.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Trivial Pursuit - January 22, 2010

Matthew 6:24 (New International Reader's Version)24 "No one can serve two masters at the same time. He will hate one of them and love the other. Or he will be faithful to one and dislike the other. You can't serve God and Money at the same time.

How often did you think about Money this week? You worked for it. You spent it. Maybe you saved it. You gave it as an allowance, or a present. You made some, you lost some. I am sure that you were constantly bombarded by the pursuit of Money. Why does it take so much Money to live in this day and age! Almost everything has a "price tag" on it; homes; cars; food; entertainment; education; everything. From our earliest recollection we have been trapped in a "material world", in pursuit of riches and money.

Even if we try to not focus on Money, we focus our energies and efforts to make sure that our personal and household fianances are in order before we do anything else. Jesus spoke about this subject while he was delivering his sermon on a Gallilean mountainside, called The Sermon on the Mount in our Bibles. He rightly points out that money and finances can become the "Master" of our lives, and he cautions us against serving both God and Money.

Living a life dedicated to investing in "Next Worth" focuses on the other Master, God. We need to make a conscious choice and effort to focus on the pursuit of God rather than money. In his statements right after this verse (Matthew 6:31-33), Jesus points out that we should not worry about the material things of this world, but if we seek the things of God first, everything else will be taken care of for us.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Meaning of Next Worth - January 21, 2010

Matthew 6:19-20 (New International Version)19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

You may have been wondering why I titled this devotional blog, "Next Worth". Many months ago, the economy was in freefall, and the foundations of the country's financial institution began to come apart. Wall Street was in a panic, the Congress was in "blame" mode, and politicians were exploiting a dire situation for their own gain. Many started losing their jobs, and people were quickly losing their confidence in the system they had long trusted to give them finacial well-being. Commentary on the nation's media were focused on how to survive this meltdown in trust and security.

One comment I heard that really stood out was to the fact that many had lost over half of their "net worth" in the stock market and other investment vehicles. It had gotten so bad that some had actually decided to end their lives rather than face the losses they had encountered. The Lord very quickly placed a verse in my mind, which I have posted above, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal". Along with the verse the Holy Spirit very clearly let me know that people should not be focused on their "net worth" in this world, but on their investment in their eternal futures, their "Next Worth".

As I meditated on the verse above, and I considered what was happening in the world around me, God impressed on my heart the need to share the message of "eternal investment" with others. Our God has created us with eternity in mind as His most beloved created being, and we are intensely loved by Him. Read how David asks about why God loves us so much in Psalm 8:3-5 (New Living Translation)
3 When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—
the moon and the stars you set in place—
4 what are mere mortals that you should think about them,
human beings that you should care for them?
5 Yet you made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.

The prophet Jeremiah answers David five hundred years later with these words from God in Jeremiah 31:3(New International Version)
3 The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

And finally we see His love in these words from Jesus in John 10:9-11 (New Living Translation)
9 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.

Because of God's intense love for us, He longs to have us with Him for eternity. In the meantime, we are here to invest our lives in serving Him, making an impact for Him in the world around us, as we wait to finally see Him face to face(1Corinthians 13:12). As we proceed on this journey, we will study what investing for our "Next Worth" really means, we will learn how to truly live it out in our everyday lives, and we will have a chance to meet others who have made it there life's work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Everyone's Duty - January 20, 2010

Ecclesiastes 12:1,13-14 (New Living Translation)1 Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator. Honor him in your youth before you grow old and say, “Life is not pleasant anymore.” ...13 That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. 14 God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.

One advantage from looking at life from the right side of forty is that you have the ability to look back and see what we have done wrong. One statement I am sure we all would agree with is that "life is hard", and many of us have had to learn the hard way, that we cannot do this job of living on our own.

As he approached his later years, the King who had it all in his time, when it came to the world's definition of success, wisdom, money, pleasure, and power, had to give the life he led a serious look. As he examined his life and everything he had done, Solomon reached the conclusion that his life had been meaningless. The twelve chapters of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible is a sad lament on leading a life that is only after the things that this world has to offer.

This is a great book for us to read and reflect upon for ourselves. It is never too late to understand the fact, that this life and everything in it has been given to us as a gift with a purpose. The world would want us to think otherwise, but we have been created to serve God and to serve those around us. I am thankful that God in His unexplainable love and grace revealed this to me before I too had to lament, as Solomon did, that everything was meaningless.

Solomon gives us a bit of wisdom that we need to take to heart and pass on to our youthful friends, and our children and grandchildren. We need to remember that we are here for God's purpose, and life is much easier if our focus is on Him. He summarizes all of the wisdom that God gave him in the concluding verse above. Our reason for living is to love, obey and serve God, because ultimately we are accountable to Him for what we do with this gift He has given us.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meaningless! - January 19, 2010

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)1 These are the words of the Teacher. He was the son of David. He was also king in Jerusalem. 2 "Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Everything is completely meaningless! Nothing has any meaning." 3 What does a man get for all of his work? Why does he work so hard on this earth?

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 (New Living Translation)10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.

Why do we do what we do? What purpose does our work and everything we strive for have in this world? What value does it truly add to our lives and to the lives of others? Many of us ponder these questions often in our lives, especially when we are searching for meaning to our lives and life's work. The value of what we do in life is just as important as the question we asked earlier in the month,"Why am I here?".

The Book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible was written by King Solomon of Israel as his reflection on the life he led. In it he examined the many aspects of what he did as the wisest and richest king in biblical history. Here was a man that God granted great wisdom and wealth, but he sqaundered away the blessings he was given for a life of immorality and pleasure. As he writes this book at the end of his life, we have the opportunity to look into the window of his life, to ask and answer some big questions for ourselves.

As Solomon sought to understand what benefit there was in his efforts of working, gaining wisdom, and at seeking pleasure, we need to examine for ourselves the purpose in what we are doing. Are we here to work hard at our jobs and accumulate homes, cars, and investments for retirement denying ourselves nothing in material gain? Are we here to get a great education and learning all that we can, to secure the best position and power possible, that our advanced degrees will allow? Or are we just here to live like there is no tomorrow and experience every pleasure and desire the world has to offer? Not that any of these things are wrong in themselves, but Solomon tries to show us through the self-examination of his experiences that chasing after these things alone is meaningless.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Gardener - January 18, 2010

John 15:1-4 (New Living Translation)1“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

Have you often wondered why life goes the way it does? You do all that you can to do good and live a humble and productive life, but things always seem to be difficult. Life is hard! You ask yourself, "Even though I try to do what is right for God, what do I need to do to get a break?"

Once again Jesus tries to comfort us and explain how God works in our lives. In ancient Israel cultivating grapes for wine was not only big business to provide a livelihood, but a necessity to provide a staple for living. The rugged hills and arid climate, were ideal for growing grapes, and vineyards and people working among the rows of grapevines was a common sight. Jesus often chose the example of the vineyard to instruct his followers.

In these verses Jesus tries to teach us a lesson through symbolism. In saying he is the true grapevine, he tells us he is the root of who we are, taking us back to the creation. This is what we are told in John 1:1-3 (New International Reader's Version)1 In the beginning, the Word(Jesus Christ) was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him.

God we are told is the gardener; He goes through the vineyard, which I believe is the world around us, and he cuts off, removes, judges, every branch of the vine, person, that does not produce fruit. Here the fruit is the spiritual product of our lives, love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These are known as the "fruit of the Spirit".

Through pruning, defined as cutting back of what is unwanted for more fruitful growth, God helps us to be more fruitful. Meaning that through the difficult times and struggles that we go through, God desires a result that we will exhibit the characteristcs of a godly life. Jesus goes on to explain that by hearing his word, we already are undergoing life change and we are "cleaning up our act", because of what we have already learned from God's word.

He once again gives us the comforting message that if we will remain in him, stay close to him, seek to include Jesus in our daily lives, and follow his example and instruction as we live our lives, we will be productive for God and for those around us. Our lives will fulfill God's original intent for mankind, to bear the fruit of making this a better place to live.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How do you spell relief? - January 17, 2010

Psalm 55:1-2,16-17,22 (New International Reader's Version)1 God, listen to my prayer. Pay attention to my cry for help. 2 Hear me and answer me. My thoughts upset me. I'm very troubled. 16 But I call out to God. And the Lord saves me. 17 Evening, morning and noon I groan and cry out. And he hears my voice. 22 Turn your worries over to the Lord. He will keep you going. He will never let godly people fall.

How do you spell relief when you are having difficulties and having a difficult time. Yesterday we discussed how Jesus carries us and teaches us during these times. This is not something new to God. Since He created this planet and everything in it, He has cared for His creation. He especially has cared for us, whom He created in His own image.

I love how the Bible carries its message across 1400 years of writings from men that were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. In these verses of Psalms, written by David several hundred years before Jesus walked the planet, David appeals to God for relief from the difficulties that he was experiencing from King Saul. King Saul was the first king of Israel, but he had lost favor with God. Because of this God had appointed David to be the next ruler of His people, Israel. Although David respected God's King Saul greatly, Saul was jealous in losing the favor of God, and jealous that God and the people had begun to favor David. This Psalm was written as an appeal to God for help.

As you go through your day today, reflect on these words from David. For relief of what may worry you today, turn them over to God in prayer.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Rest in Him - January 16, 2010

Matthew 11:28-29 (New International Reader's Version)28 "Come to me, all of you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. 29 Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls.

After the long struggles of a week, we look to Saturdays as a time of rest and recuperation. But unfortunately for the burdens and struggles of the heart and soul, even the weekend off from work, rarely supplies the true rest that we might be seeking.

In this passage, Jesus reaches out to everyone of us who might be weighed down by the troubles of this life and this world. As God in the flesh, he steps into our world of troubles and struggles, our bad week at the office or school, the problems we encounter at home and in our finances, and he offers to give us rest and relief. We are hard pressed to find anything else out there that offers to carry the burdens we have to bear. This is great encouragement when life "just gets us down".

Just how does he do this? He instructs us to come to him and learn from him, and he will give us rest from heavy burdens of life. In the King James translation, Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me". The illustration we are given is one of beasts of burden pulling a heavy wagon. The yoke distributes the weight across the shoulders of the beasts, making it easier to carry the load. It also keeps the animals close together and heading in the same direction.

Jesus presents us with the picture that he already is carrying our burdens and struggles, and he is asking us to carry them with him while he lightens the load and shows us the right way to go. He does not ask for anything but for us to learn by his example of gentleness and humility. He ends these words by giving us the promise that we will find rest for our souls if we do this.

The important teaching that we need to learn from this passage are the actions we must take, to obtain the relief from the burdens and struggles he is promising. First we need to "come to him"(surrender our lives to him), then "become his follower" (take the step to trust in him), and finally "learn from his teaching", (live our lives out following his example). If you are burdened in your life right now, take time out to pray and accept Jesus's offer to lighten your load.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Help Haiti!!! - January 15, 2010

Galatians 6:2,9-10 (New International Reader's Version)2 Carry each other's heavy loads. If you do, you will give the law of Christ its full meaning. ...9 Let us not become tired of doing good. At the right time we will gather a crop if we don't give up. 10 So when we can do good to everyone, let us do it. Let us make a special point of doing good to those who belong to the family of believers.

I would like to devote today's blog to the people of Haiti. As you may well know, Haiti was hit by a major earthquake this past Tuesday, January 12th. Thousands have died, but countless millions are still in need. The capital Port-Au-Prince is home to over 6,000,000 people, and was the center of the quake. Since there had not been a major earthquake in this region in well over 200 years, most of the buildings were poorly constructed, without the support and construction practices that we enjoy. Most of the structures in the area were destroyed or damaged. The country is without a government and basic services and is in chaos. Being the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has long been a nation gripped by immense poverty, both material and spiritual, and because of this terrible natural disaster, the country can quickly fall into anarchy.

As our verse above tell us, we need to help carry the burdens of the people of Haiti. Now is the best opportunity to make a direct impact on people's lives. There have been many Christian orginizations and churches involved in helping this island for many years, and now there resources necessary to provide relief and care are extremely stretched. I would ask everyone to try to get involved as much as possible, not necessarily going there, but supporting the efforts of people already there. Doing this is simple; all you need to do is to check in with the World Vision, Child Fund, Red Cross or other organization, and ask how you can help. I have severla links to these efforts on the right handside of this page. Check also with your local church to see how memembers might be pooling resources.

A simple way to donate $10 that will go directly to organizations on the ground in Haiti is to TEXT ACLJ to 90999. A reply message will ask you to reply YES to confirm. You will be billed to you cellphone bill. These funds go to,, and Operation Blessing.

Now is the time for God's people to get involved and give a helping hand! God Bless you!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Daily Grind - January 14, 2010

Colossians 3:23-24 (New Living Translation)23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. 24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Isn't it hard to work willingly some of the time? Many of us have been "trapped" doing things that we really do not like doing, or working for bosses and around people we really didn't care for. What was the response to that situation? It probably was to complain and neglect our work, while doing all we could to find something or somewhere else to work.

The times we currently work in have probably required many of us to have to work at jobs that we do not really like, and the "daily grind" tends to do just that, grind on us. Maybe we should look at our entire response about the work that God gives us a little differently?

In Paul's letter to the 1st century church in Colosse, a leading city in Asia Minor(present day Turkey), he addresses how members of a Christian household should live out their daily lives. He specifically addressed this to the servants of a household, stressing that they should be obedient to their eartly masters, and later he turns the table telling the masters of the household to treat their servants justly and fairly. In both situations he reminds them that they are both working for a Master, in Heaven.

What we need to take away from this is that the same God we have faith in and count on for our daily needs, even for that job or work situation that we may not particularly care for, also requires certain things from us. As a follower of Christ, life takes on a whole new meaning. We are now His representatives to the world around us, and the example of how we react in all situations has a direct reflection on Christ.

Maybe work tomorrow morning might have a whole new outlook if we follow Paul's instruction. Remember the work that we do is to serve God and not only to serve the Company, and while we are at it, make every effort to keep God in mind in everything that we do.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Why Worry? - January 13, 2010

Philippians 4:6-7(New Living Translation)6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
1 Peter 5:7 (New Living Translation)
7 Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

Several days ago we touched on worry as we talked about setting our priorities correctly. Worry is one of those things that tends to plague everyone from time to time. It is something that can hinder us from moving forward in our lives and accomplishing the plans and goals that have been set before us.

Paul wrote these words to encourage the church in Phillipi, which was a Roman colony in Macedon(Modern day Greece), and it is amazing that he wrote such words while he was in prison. That is hardly the place to be and not worry, but Paul's confidence in placing his faith in Jesus Christ was so great, that he was moved to encourages the reader to do the same. This was emphasized in his letter to the Romans, Romans 8:38-39 (New International Reader's Version)38 I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God's love. Not even angels or demons, the present or the future, or any powers can do that. 39 Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can do that. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God's love because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.

I have come to believe that worry is a faith issue. The more we understand God's great love for us, the less we will worry about the trivial things of this world. As Paul's contemporary the apostle Peter goes on to tell us in the verse above, we need to give all our worries to God. He will take care of the rest.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why Faith? - January 12, 2010

Hebrews 11:1-3(New International Version)1Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2This is what the ancients were commended for. 3By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Hebrews 11:1-3 (The Message)1-2The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. 3By faith, we see the world called into existence by God's word, what we see created by what we don't see.

Faith; it is the fundamental bedrock that someone needs to believe in God, in Jesus, in the Holy Spirit and in all that we know if we are to be Christians. It takes faith to believe that all that is around us was created by God. It takes faith to believe that God stepped into our world and became a man, to sacrifice Himself on the cross for our immorality, disobedience, and wickedness, also known as sin. It takes faith to believe that God actually comes to live within us in the form of the Holy Spirit, to give us guidance, knowledge and comfort to live this earthly life. It takes faith to believe that God wrote the whole story down in the Bible, through the inspiration of ordinary men, and that the words come alive, and can speak to us today.

The dictionary defines faith as, "confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing","firm belief in something for which there is no proof or material evidence". People place their "faith" in many things, but can you concretely say that you have faith in God and His plan for salvation? I am of the opinion that it is easier to place my faith in Him, than it is to believe that everything is here by chance. Nothing times nothing still gives nothing, if I remember my math correctly. No one can convince me that the complexity of everything around me came about by chance. We are also asked, and in fact now teach our children in public school, that a theory is a fact, but to me it takes more faith to believe that we are descendants of apes, than it does that God wonderously created it all. It's a wonder why the scientists have to keep adding billions of years to the age of things, trying to find "the missing link"!

The passage above is the introduction of a great faith chapter in the Bible, Hebrews 11. The writer gives us an overview of the Old Testament's people of faith, and gives us reason for the faith and hope that is within us as believers. He help us as readers understand that we do not have an empty faith, but one that has been built over the millenia.

To me my faith in God increases everytime I see a newborn baby, just as it was when I held my own child in my arms for the first time. My faith is increased everytime I see the wonders of creation in the coloration and migration of birds, and the complex wonder of the flagellum of a one-celled organism. My faith is increased everytime I stand in awe of the beauty of forests and mountains, and everytime I see the sun set over the ocean. To me my faith is increased everytime I see a person that was lost and forsaken by the world, turn around and change their life to one of value and tremendous joy, because of the faith they placed in the one who gave me hope, Jesus. If you are having questions about what you believe and your faith, place your trust in God and in His Son, and ask Him to confirm the faith that is within you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Studying the Bible - January 11, 2010

Hebrews 4:12-13 (New Living Translation)12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

You cannot approach the use of the Bible as a text without a basic understanding of how to go about studying it. Yesterday we explored why the Bible is relevant for our study, and that is has been proven authoritative and valid due to its manuscript evidence, archaeology, fulfilled prophecy, and overall continuity of story. One need only commit to taking time to studying God's word, and they will be amazed how the words can reveal what is in a person's heart. Our text above, which has been attributed to Paul in his Letter to the Hebrews , describes how this takes place.

How should we go about studying God's word to achieve the greatest revelation and understanding? Here are a few tips on how to:

1. Select a Bible - There are many good translations of the Bible that are in use today. The one you use depends on your current level of understanding. A beginner will find that the New Living Translation or The Message are paraphrased and amplified in today's manner of speaking, and these will be fairly easy to understand. If you wish a more accurate translation that adheres more to the word for word meaning in the original Hebrew or Greek, The New International Version(NIV), American Standard Version(ASV) or New King James Version(NKJV) are good to use.

2. Select Study Tools - You will want to arm yourself with a few good tools that will help you make sense of what you are studying. These will include a Bible Dictionary for word clarification, Bible Study Guides that will help you plan your study, Commentaries that are interpretations of the textual meaning by scholars, a Concordance that allows you to find passages that you might be loooking for, and the Internet that allows you to find anything on the topic. You do need to be careful that what you use and read are from reliable and reputable authors that have extensive knowledge of the Bible.

3. Select a Location and Time - You will want to find a location and time that is most convenient for consistent study. Free yourself from distractions and obstacles that will keep you from meaningful time with the Bible for at least 15 minutes. You will be suprised how much will happen to distract and discourage you, but if you remain faithful and dilligent, you will get past this. You will find more time and desire to keep up your study program.

4. Pray - Before you get started reading, begin by praying and asking God to give you spiritual understanding. Seek God's direction through His Spirit asking Him to reveal His will and meaning of the words to you.

5. Select a Place to Start - This is really up to you. Some people start from the beginning in the Old Testament, while others start with the New Testament accounts of Jesus's life. Others will start with the books of the Bible that give a good synopsis of the message and reason behind the Gospel, such as John or Romans. You will want to limit yourself to reading chapter or book. Read it, then read it again. Meditate on what the words are trying to tell you. Use the study tools to help you dissect the the meaning. Be sure that you complete the chapter or book before moving on to the next. It is difficult to gain real understanding of context and purpose if you do otherwise.

6. Live it - After you have taken time to read and dissect the Bible, actively apply what you have learned. Living out what you have come to understand is God's direction and purpose for your life can be truly life changing. You will find opposition at times, but you will find that God's word will provide comfort and peace. Become a "doer of the word" and you will be blessed by the results.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Why the Bible? - January 10, 2010

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (New International Reader's Version)16 God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. 17 By using Scripture, a man of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing.

Some of you may be asking, "Why the Bible?", and others might be thinking,"I have a pretty good handle on things,...why do I need I need the Bible for my daily life?". In our Nation and in the many of the countries in this world, the Bible has been ridiculed and banned from schools and public life, and relegated to the back corners of libraries. The Bible for many has just become another book of stories and myths that is no more valid than any other religious texts. I too have been guilty of placing my Bible on the shelf to gather dust way too many times, but in recent years I have discovered that it is useful and powerful as I make my way through life.

As we go through this year together, much of what I will talk about will come from the Bible, and it is important that we have confidence in what we are studying. How can we know that the Bible is relevent and accurate in what it telling us? Did you know that the Bible was written by 40 authors over a span of approximately 1600 years? Here are some evidences that I heard discussed not long ago:

Manuscript copies that were used for modern day translations have been found faithful to the original writings. For the Old Testament, over 18,000 complete and partial copies, dating from as early as 250 B.C. as late as 90 A.D., have been found to be the same. This was supported by the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls in Qumran between 1947 and 1956. For the New Testament 5000 complete or partial manuscripts containing over 20,000 lines of text, only found 40 discrepancies of punctuation, which did not change the meaning. No other ancient document has more accurate evidence for its authenticity.

Archaeology also supports the validity of biblical scripture. There has never been an archaeological discovery made that has ever contradicted the Bible. Any search of the internet will give you a list of these, some of these are the Qumran(Dead Sea)Scrolls, House of David Inscription, Ossuary of Caiaphas,and Pontius Pilate Inscription.

Prophecy found in the Bible has long been considered a validation for what is written. The Book of Daniel lists in detail the rise and fall of kingdoms several centuries ahead their time, and the historical record of kings and kingdoms for which Daniel served in ancient Persia are supported in our history books today; you may have heard of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius the Mede, Cyrus the Persian, all are found in the history of ancient Persia, the area now encompassing Iraq and Iran.

Finally the continuity of the story told in over 66 books of scripture, over 1600 years, in 3 distinct languages and different countries, lead us to the One who has all the answers and His book, the Bible.

I believe that the validity and authenticity of the Bible for someone is in direct correlation to the amount of time they take in reading and studying it. If you have never chosen to pick one up and read it, you owe it to yourself to make it a practice in your life this year.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Success God's Way - January 9, 2010

Proverbs 16:3,9 (New International Reader's Version)3 Commit to the Lord everything you do. Then your plans will succeed. ...9 In your heart you plan your life. But the Lord decides where your steps will take you.

We have made it through the first few days of the new year, and to many of us the Christmas Holidays and New Year passed us by much too quickly. We are still faced with challenges we need to overcome and goals we need to accomplish for 2010. Many of the challenges and goals may seem insurmountable as we look forward, but we have been given much "wisdom" by God throughout the Bible that is at our fingertips.

Much of the wisdom literature in the Bible is attributed to King Solomon, son of David, who ruled Israel in the 10th century B.C. We are told in his narrative, 2Chronicles 1-9, that when he succeeded his father as ruler, God appeared to him and said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you."
Because he asked for wisdom and knowledge with which to govern God's people, God made him one of the wisest and richest rulers ever known. The Book of Proverbs contains many wise sayings for daily living, and most of the book has been accredited to Solomon.

In the verses above, we are instucted to commit to God everything we do, which means that we are to continually be focused on God, as we go about our daily lives. By doing so, we are told that our plans will succeed. It doesn't promise us glory and riches, because success God's way isn't always the same as the world's way.

I was encouraged on Thursday night, during Colt McCoy's interview, after his injury and disappointing BCS Championship Game loss. He was asked about his feelings on the matter, and consistent with his example after every game, win or lose, Colt commented, "I always give God the glory. I never question why things happen the way they do. God is in control of my life, and I know that if nothing else, I am still standing on the rock." This young man, has always acknowledged his faith in God during a college football career that is replete with many awards and honors. At the University of Texas and the NCAA, Colt McCoy is recognized as one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in history.

The lesson to learn here is that win or lose, God is still in control. He can carry us to the highest mountaintop, but it is in the valley that we truly know that He is there with us. Colt and those around him had great plans, but God utlimately chooses what direction they will go in. Colt is a success not only because of his God given talent and accompolishments, but because he knows whose hands in which to place his plans and faith.

If you have not already done so, take a few minutes and write down your list of challenges and goals for 2010. Then spend time alone with God in prayer, committing each one to Him one-by-one. You and your year will be better for it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Favor and Protection - January 8, 2010

Romans 8:28; Romans 8:37-39 (New King James Version)28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. ...37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What great news for today; to know that when we chose to love God through Jesus Christ that He will work things out for our good! Yes, this is sometimes very difficult to understand, especially when things in our lives seem to go badly. Many times when we see the circumstances close up or we are right in the midst of the difficulty we find it hard to see how God is helping us through it.

Paul wrote this letter to the believers in Rome from Corinth, just after the middle of the 1st century. The purpose of Romans was to preach the "good news" of salvation in Christ and to impart to the reader a gift of encouragement and assurance in all that God has freely given them. The 8th Chapter of Romans specifically addresses the favor, benefits and protections offered through believing, and living lives led by the Spirit of God, as we have come to know as the Holy Spirit.

Just as they were for the Roman believers, these words offer us encouragement, hope and a promise that God will help us. He will be in the life's most difficult situations and work them out for our ultimate benefit. Even better is that the this text emphasizes ALL things, not just some things working together for good. If at those times in our own lives, when things seem most hopeless and depressing, we will shift our focus away from the situation and onto what God might be trying to do through it, we can find greater peace and comfort. We may not see or know the results for some time, but the outcome will give positive results.

The best promise is at the end of the highlighted verses for today. That is that no matter what the circumstance, or the situation, whether it is in this life or the next, nothing will ever seperate us from God's love once we place our belief in Jesus Christ. Now that is "good news"!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Finding Identity - January 7, 2010

2 Corinthians 5:17 (New International Version)17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Another question that we often ask ourselves is, "Who am I?" We spend alot of time working on ourselves,seeking to present just the right image for the world to see. As young people, we wanted to fit in and to be liked by those around us by wanting to be identical to everyone else, but at the same time we went to great lengths to create our own individual identity and personality. We longed for self-worth and acceptance, and as we grew up, I would venture to say that not much really changed.

In the book of Corinthians, Chapter 5, Paul is very clear to let the Corinthian church know their identities as believers in Christ. He contrasts the earthly from the heavenly; the temporary from the eternal. He further encourages followers in Christ that they are no longer the same, and as such they are Christ's representatives of what God has done for His people.

When we decide to take the step to follow Jesus Christ we finally have true identity. God's love changes who we are from the inside out. We no longer are our "old selves", but we are transformed into something new, a "new creation"! As such, we also accept an awesome responsibility to reflect Christ to those around us, and to be the hands and feet of Jesus in our daily lives. Romans 10:15 (New Living Translation)15 And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!”(Isaiah 52:7)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Finding Value - January 6, 2010

Jeremiah 31:3 (New International Reader's Version)3 The Lord appeared to us in the past. He said,"I have loved you with a love that lasts forever.I have kept on loving you with faithful love."

John 3:16-17 (New International Version)16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

As we journey into the new year, it may be difficult for some to know how much they are truly vauled. It is difficult to move forward into a season of renewal, because the past may carry with it burdens of hurt and pain that hold them back from truly accomplishing what God has planned and designed for their lives. A first step in the direction of letting go of the past is to realize that we are intensely loved by God.

The Bible gives us many passages that tell us how deeply God loves us, His creation. As you read in the passage to His chosen people Israel above, God loves us with an everlasting love. That means a love that is unending, eternal, lasts forever, endures for all time. He has known us since before we were born, and continues His love for us by providing a way for us to always be with Him. That way is highlighted above in the words of Jesus himself.

Do you realize how much you truly mean to God? Do you understand how truly valuable you are? When you come to realization of your value and worth, it will make a world of difference to everyone and everything else around you. As you move forward into the new year, you cannot truly value and love others unless you first understand the intensity of God's love for you.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Finding Purpose - January 5, 2010

Ephesians 2:10 (New Century Version)
10 God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.

Why am I here? That is the biggest question we all ask of ourselves. It is probably the single most asked question that is common to everyone on the planet since time began, and it will be asked by everyone living after we are gone.

Tradition tells us that Paul wrote this verse in the 1st century, while in prison in Rome, as part of his letter to the Church in Ephesus in modern day Turkey. The church was very multicultural, and Paul sought to unify this diverse group of Jews and Gentiles, emphasizing the central theme that we all were created by God. He then reaffirmed who they were as believers and laid out guidance for spiritual living.

This verse of the Bible tells me that we are all created by God. He planned out our lives long long ago, and each one of us has a particular reason for living, and mission on this earth that is part of His overall plan. Every life has intrinsic worth, value and purpose, although some in society today would seek to tell us differently. As such we need to take time to discover what it is that we should be doing. We need to ask ourselves, "Now that I am unique and of great value to God, what it is it that He has made me to do? What is the good work, mission,or purpose that I should be doing?"

We can only answer this by first knowing Jesus Christ, and then spend time in prayer seeking God. When we take this step for ourselves, He will be anxious to reveal His plans in our hearts. Have you taken the time in this new year to discover God's purpose for your life?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Setting Priorities - January 4, 2010

Matthew 6:25; Matthew 6:33-34 (New International Reader's Version)25 "I tell you, do not worry. Don't worry about your life and what you will eat or drink. And don't worry about your body and what you will wear. Isn't there more to life than eating? Aren't there more important things for the body than clothes?... 33 "But put God's kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all of those things will also be given to you. 34 "So don't worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Easier said than done! As we look forward to a new year, set our goals, and make our plans, we tend to worry about what a new year will bring; taxes, job changes, personal issues, struggles of all kinds. It is very hard not to worry, when you add to that everything that is going on in the world around us; runaway government spending, ballooning national debt, crime, hunger, terror plots, and so much more.

These statements were made by Jesus, shortly after he began his ministry around 30AD. He was spending his time traveling throughout a region North and West of the Sea of Galilee, which is in modern day Israel, teaching in synagogues, gathering his disciples, and healing people of many kinds of illness and sickness. It is part of what has become known as The Sermon on the Mount(Matthew 4-7). The Sermon is a compilation of the moral teachings of Jesus and addresses God's perspective on the needs of the people. Here he specifically addresses what our response needs to be to the "worries of this life".

Jesus is very clear here on where our priorities need to be when we face worry, personal needs and struggles, and the future. Our focus needs to be on God, seeking Him in all the decisions that we have to make. Making Him top priority in our lives.
The best part about his statement is His promise take care of all the things that worry you. We just have to make sure that we are following His will.

What struggles are you facing as you look towards this new year? What do you need to turn over to a loving Father that is concerned about carrying your burdens and troubles? Put God first this year, and the rest will work itself out.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Trust in Him - January 3, 2010

Proverbs 3:5-6 (New King James Version)5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

For many years now, this has been one of my favorite verses from the Bible. It puts everything in the proper perspective, when it comes to how to live our daily lives. Many times our own thoughts and desires can be very deceiving, leading us into things that we should not be involved in.

At the beginning of the Book of Proverbs, it makes it very clear what the author, Solomon, son of David, King of Israel, intended for us to obtain from the reading of this God inspired book,"2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; 3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;"(Proverbs 1:2-3). He sought to have us gain the ability to discern and judge what is right for daily living and to receive the benefits from doing so.

We are now making plans of how we will live out 2010. As we go foward into the new year, we need to use godly insight to give us a wise plan of action. Let's take these words into our own hearts, seeking God and trusting Him as we make decisions in our lives, and making sure that we are mindful of Him. By doing so, He will remove the barriers that might hinder us along the way.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Focus on Him - January 2, 2010

James 4:13-15 (New International Version)13Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."

By now many of us have made plans to go here or there this year, set goals to lose weight or accomplish this or that, planned calendar events such as vacations or weddings, committed to change jobs or find one, or set resolutions to bring about change. I am in the process of doing so and have done it in the past. In order to go anywhere in life, you need to have goals, and construct a plan on how you will accomplish them. Many fail in attaining their dreams and living a truly satisfying life, because of their failure to do so. Nothing is worse than a "ship without a rudder".

James, the brother of Jesus, was interested in vital Christianity, that results in consistant character and is lived out in serving those around us. In this passage, he encourages us to make our future plans with God in mind. As you sit down and take time to do the work of setting goals and making plans for the new year, meditate on what God might desire for your life. What can you accomplish in your life and for those around you with God's help? What are His purposes for you in 2010?

This life passes quickly by; we need to do the work of seeking God, placing Him first in our lives, and include His work in our plans. Commit yourself in the new year to seek Him in prayer before you go on the journey.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Plans to Prosper - January 1, 2010

Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version) For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Happy New Year 2010! For some time I have felt the urging to share my thoughts on questions that may be of concern to all. We all struggle with knowing our place in this world, what we are doing, why we are doing it, and where we are going. We ask ourselves the question, "In the long-term scheme of things, does what I do in life really matter?"

Journey with me over the new year as I seek to answer that question. Each day I will post a verse for reflection, and as we go along I will share ideas and exercises that I hope will be an encouragement and a blessing. I do not promise a great theological exogesis of scripture and verse, just a revelation of what God has placed on my heart.

Feel free to dialogue with me as we walk together.