Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blameless and Blessed - July 31, 2010

Psalm 119:1-8 (New International Version)
' Aleph

1 Blessed are they whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.
2 Blessed are they who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart.

3 They do nothing wrong;
they walk in his ways.

4 You have laid down precepts
that are to be fully obeyed.

5 Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!

6 Then I would not be put to shame
when I consider all your commands.

7 I will praise you with an upright heart
as I learn your righteous laws.

8 I will obey your decrees;
do not utterly forsake me.

Psalm 119 is a devotional poem from what appears to be a very pious priest. This is the only psalm in The Psalms written by this author. This psalm is an acrostic poem; the verses of each stanza begin with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. As we periodically study this psalm, we will study how this Israelite priest sought to pass on godly instruction in his devotional study of the word of God.

In this introductory stanza, we will note that the Psalter makes the statement that those who are obedient will be blessed, happy, consecrated to God. Blessing is the reward for following God and His instruction. The author then goes on to describe what an obedient and blessed person does in verse 3. He then states what God's requires of us in verse 4. Finally in verses 5-8, he personalizes the stanza and describes himself. It is interesting how, although this is a very pious and devout man, he shows his humility and humanity before God. It is a little easier to understand this when translated in the New Century Version:

5 I wish I were more loyal in obeying your demands.6 Then I would not be ashamed when I study your commands.

And then, as if he stands up and lifts himself up to God with determination and commitment, he declares before God that he will take the action required.

This chapter of The Psalms is a good one for personal reflection and meditation. Take a few minutes and read it for yourself. Pray through it, lifting up to God each verse. Starting with verse 5, personalize the verses for yourself, putting yourself in the place of this humble priest. This will help to bring you closer to God, and to find blessing and joy in His presence.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Glimpse of Heaven - July 30, 2010

Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:4-6 (New American Standard Bible)
1After these things I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God;
4And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sits on the throne saying, "Amen Hallelujah!"

5And a voice came from the throne, saying, "Give praise to our God, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great."

Just returned from a Hillsong Concert at Fellowship Church. The praise and worship helped me to catch a glimpse of Heaven. Seeing a "great multitude" singing praises and raising their hands with shouts of Hallelujah, made me long for that day when I will be face to face with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He alone is worthy of our praise. To God be the glory forever. Amen.

6Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, "Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Unashamed - July 29, 2010

Romans 1:16-17 (New International Version)
16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Matthew 10:32(New Century Version)
32 "All those who stand before others and say they believe in me, I will say before my Father in heaven that they belong to me.

These days it is almost the "kiss of death" to call yourself a Christian. There are very few situations in today's world where you will not be ridiculed for being a Christian. If you haven't experienced it, then you have not stepped very far out from your sphere of Christian friends, or you have not been very bold with your faith. If you are not being bold, then you are in danger of finding yourself a bit irrelavent for the kingdom of God.

Stepping out as a Christian is a statement to all those who notice that your are not ashamed of the good nees of the saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is great news to those hurting around you that God loves them, and that He loved them enough to send Jesus to die on the cross for their sins. It is also great news that Jesus stepped out of the grave and proved that He was God, and He has gone before us to prepare a better place for us.

God has provided us the way out of the troubles of this world. He has cleaned us up and made us right with Him. In turn we need to unashamedly step out and make sure that everyone we come in contact with knows it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hannah's Prayer - June 28, 2010

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (New International Version)
1 Then Hannah prayed and said:
"My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn(strength) is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.
2 "There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

3 "Do not keep talking so proudly
or let your mouth speak such arrogance,
for the LORD is a God who knows,
and by him deeds are weighed.

4 "The bows of the warriors are broken,
but those who stumbled are armed with strength.

5 Those who were full hire themselves out for food,
but those who were hungry hunger no more.
She who was barren has borne seven children,
but she who has had many sons pines away.

6 "The LORD brings death and makes alive;
he brings down to the grave and raises up.

7 The LORD sends poverty and wealth;
he humbles and he exalts.

8 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
he seats them with princes
and has them inherit a throne of honor.
"For the foundations of the earth are the LORD's;
upon them he has set the world.

9 He will guard the feet of his saints,
but the wicked will be silenced in darkness.
"It is not by strength that one prevails;

10 those who oppose the LORD will be shattered.
He will thunder against them from heaven;
the LORD will judge the ends of the earth.
"He will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn(strength)of his anointed."

Have you ever been in a difficult situation that day after day, month after month, continued on without a favorable outcome? You may have sought God in prayer and cried out to Him for relief, but the situation continued without God's help. After awhile, you grew so tired of your trouble that you raised your voice in anguish, wondering why the Lord had forgotten you. You began to doubt that God would ever help, and you may have resigned yourself to the fact that maybe God had closed His ears to your plea, and that nothing would ever change.

In the Book of 1Samuel in the Bible, Hannah found herself in that same situation. She was the favored second wife of her husband, but for some reason she was unable to bear any children. In those days, a woman's value in society many times determined by her ability to bear her husband sons. In Hannah's case, she had to stand by in shame while year after year the other wife had child after child for her husband.

Instead of giving up, Hannah appealed to a higher authority. She poured her heart out to God and He remembered her plea:

10 In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. 11 And she made a vow, saying, "O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head."
20 So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel, saying, "Because I asked the LORD for him."- 1 Samuel 1:10-11;20(New International Version)

In thanksgiving for God remembering her plea, Hannah lifted up the prayer posted above. She gives God all of the glory for remembering His humble servant, and she characterizes the goodness of God as she prays.

If you have been troubled for along time with a difficult situation, don't give up hope, learn a lesson from Hannah. Lift your heart to the Lord. God hears and loves you, and in His perfect timing He will bring you relief from your trouble. He knows the beginning from the end and He will remember your plea. Be patient and always lift Him up in praise, and when your difficulty comes to an end, be sure to give Him the glory, praise and thanks that He is due.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Worth It? - July 27, 2010

Mark 10:28-31 (New Century Version)
28 Peter said to Jesus, "Look, we have left everything and followed you."

29 Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, all those who have left houses, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms for me and for the Good News 30 will get more than they left. Here in this world they will have a hundred times more homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and fields. And with those things, they will also suffer for their belief. But in the age that is coming they will have life forever. 31 Many who are first now will be last in the future. And many who are last now will be first in the future."

You may be wondering whether or not it is all worth. Is living for Jesus Christ in this world, going through the hassle and trouble really worth it? You might think that going back to living in the world is a whole lot easier and more fun. Or you might think that the sacrifice is too hard, and you wonder what really is on the other side? If we compare the Christian life here in the United States, what we have to give up is really nothing at all. Then why does it become so diffcult for us to be "sold out" for Jesus?

I came across a good example of the sacrificial Christain life when I was in Dilliard's this evening. I ran into a young man, Claudio, who had been on the job for just a couple of weeks. He was smiling and had a friendly and engaging attitude. As we made small talk, he told me that he appreciated working in the air conditioning, because his last jobs have always been outside. He told me that he was from Brazil. and he was in this country going to school at Dallas Baptist University studying finance.

He went on to tell me his story of how he met his missionary wife in Brazil as they minstered to children together. They had spent all of their savings to come here to further study in areas that would help their ministry. He also told me how God had been faithful and helped them make it through the last three years on around $450 a month. He didn't exactly know how, but their plans were to go back home and set up ministries to serve the poor and destitute street children in the slums of Brazil.

What encouraged me was how joyful this young man was to be here, to have a job around people, to work inside, and to have the opportunity to continue his studies. He felt that he was extremely blessed, and he wanted to take the blessings that he had received and use them for the poor children back home. Although his future was very uncertain, he and his young wife with him had committed themselves to following the leading of God and serve others.

Jesus makes a promise above that whatever we sacrifice in service to him, he will more than make up. Even though we would go through persecution in our efforts, he will make sure than we are blessed in the process. So if you are asking yourself the question of whether or not it is worth it, remember Claudio's example: a joyful young man, with his young wife, in a foreign country, living out lives trusting God in service to Jesus Christ in a hurting world. Take heart Christian, our Lord and Savior will repay more than we can ever give to him.

Oh, by the way, if you find yourself in Dilliard's in Northeast Mall, find Claudio and buy something from him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"My Neighbor's Bible" - Jul 26, 2010

1 Peter 2:12 (New Century Version)
12 People who do not believe are living all around you and might say that you are doing wrong. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again.

You never know who is watching you. You never know what you do as a witness for Jesus Christ might make the difference to whether or not someone comes to know the Lord. When we take on the mantle of "Christian", our lives no longer are our own. We need to remember that we now work for the Creator of the universe. We now are the hands and feet of Jesus to a dying world around us, and we need to be His example.

I was reading a book in my "library" today, and I came across a short little poem that really brought the point I have been trying to get across over the last couple of days:

"I Am My Neighbor's Bible"

I am my neighbor's Bible:
He reads me when we meet,
Today he reads me in my house,
Tomorrow in the street;
He may be a relative or a friend,
Or a slight acquaintance be;
He may not even know my name,
Yet he is reading me.
- Author Unknown

Each and everyday someone is searching for something different than the troubled world in which we are living. Someone out there wants to have something that they can believe in that will bring change to their lives. If we are Christians, we have that life changing difference. But others will never know it, unless we live like we do.

It's not easy, but we were never promised it would be. It is important that we understand this point, because it is a matter of life and death for many. It is time we stepped out of our comfort zones and made a difference in the lives of other people. Time for us to be the examples that God has called us to be.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A Better Witness - July 25, 2010

Hebrews 10:24-25 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
24We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things. 25We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming.

Philippians 2:1-4 (New International Version)
1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

1 John 4:11-12 (New International Version)
11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

It is tough in the world these days. There are so many bad things that are happening around us, that it is hard for others to find comfort through the storms of life. To add to this, we now live in a culture that is foreign to the Bible centered culture of yesterday. If you live in the South, this might not be so evident, but if you live or spend time anywhere else, a culture that is centered on Christ is almost non-existent. What has resulted are people seeking a better way to live life, and yet very resistant or almost confrontational to the message of Jesus Christ.

You might say this has always existed, and it has been that way in many other countries around the world, yet in the United States of our parents and grandparents, a Christian or religious culture was assumed as the norm. Not today, in every aspect of our culture and in public life anything religious and especially anything Christian is being marginalized and seen as something bad.

What has happened is that as the culture has changed, the church has been absent from the culture. Unfortunately we have focused on our "holy huddles" shutting out the lost world. We have dwelled on being judgemental about the external, rather than sharing the good news of what God can do with the internal. If this trend continues, we will end up like other parts of the world, where the love of Christ once dwelled, but now is absent from the culture. This will create a vaccum in the hearts and lives of many that need to be filled with something, and usually what replaces the love of Christ is not always good.

So what are we to do? How can we connect with a lost and dying world that is around us, in our work, our schools, our government, and our culture? The problem is that the Christian church and Christians in general have not done a good job of being a good witness for Jesus Christ. We have not done a good job of living Christlike lives and exhibiting Christlike love to the unlovable in the world around us. If we are to win over a dying world to the immense love of God found in the work on the cross of Jesus Christ, we need to be a better witness.

We need to lead lives that exhibit what Jesus would do if he were walking around today. We need to see everyone around us as God would see them, someone that is loved by Him and in need of rescue by the Savior. If we call ourselves Christians, we are the called and the redeemed because of what Jesus has done for us. If we will behave as such, seeing everyone through the eyes of Jesus, we will cause the world around us to wonder why we are as we are. When they wonder, they will ask, and when they ask, we need to be prepared to share Christ's love.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Self-Confidence - July 24, 2010

Philippians 3:2-7 (New International Version)
2Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. 3For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:

5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

These days when you ask someone whether or not they think they will go to heaven when they die, you often get answers like,"Sure!I go to church occasionally and I'm a good person.", "I'm not that bad...I'm better than that other guy!", or "If my good outweighs my bad, I think I will!". The answer to this question are as varied as the people who are asked. The problem is that in today's world, people have too much "Self-Confidence" when it comes their salvation.

Not that self-confidence in many things is wrong, but in terms of whether or not we will spend eternity with God, we can't make it with our own efforts. If you take time to study the wisdom of the Bible, you will began to discover that the Old Testament God reveals His divine Law and points to a future Messiah that will rescue us from mankinds in-ability to keep the Law, while the New Testament reveals the Messiah as Jesus Christ as the one who accomplishes the Law.

The Law(The Ten Commandments or the Mosaic Law)acts as a mirror, in which we look at ourselves to see whether or not we measure up to God's standards. How many of us have looked at another with lust? Yet, Jesus in Matthew 5:28 tells us that if we do, we have committed adultrey. And how many have taken something that didn't belong to us, no matter how small and insignificant? Yet, that very act makes us guilty of stealing. Even looking at the guy across the street and being jealous of his new Porsche makes us guilty of coveting!

When we realize that as human beings we cannot get by without breaking God's Law, we should discover that we are hopelessly lost, because one single act of breaking God's Law makes us guilty of them all and condemns us to separation from God for eternity (damnation). It is not pleasant to read, and many of us just ignore it thinking that it will go away, but the truth is that someday we will stand before the judgement of God which will determine our eternal existence.

That is what Paul was pointing out in the verses in Philippians above. There were Jews that were persecuting new gentile(the common, non-Jewish person)Christians, because they were not following certain rules and regulations that had been imposed on the Jewish people. Paul was making a point that we can place no confidence in man's laws, rules and regulations for salvation.

In fact after the Law was given to the Jewish people, they went on to list 613 commandments in the Torah, and added to that additional traditions for Jewish living in the Mishnah, the halakhic Midrash, and the Talmud. But it is not only the Jewish religion, in fact every other religion out there require works on our own behalf to have a hope of salvation(ask any Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Muslim, etc. how they know whether or not they are saved). It is only because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, on the cross as the payment for our sins before a Holy God, that we have the assurance of being "saved".

I do not rely on my own "self", but I place my "confidence" of salvation in Jesus and Jesus Christ alone. Paul says it best, and it is easiest to understand in the New Century Version of the continuation of the text above:

8 Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ9 and to belong to him. Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but because I believed in Christ. God uses my faith to make me right with him.10 I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death.11 Then I have hope that I myself will be raised from the dead. Philippians 3:8-11 (New Century Version)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Going Sleeveless - July 23, 2010

Matthew 5:13-16 (New American Standard Bible)
13"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

14"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

16"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

If you have the pleasure of living in Texas this time of year, you are in the middle of a steam oven that our good Lord blessed us with. For me there is just enough heat that I do not have to get out of the kitchen, but for others the heat brings on a whole new wave of summertime fashion. You can't go anywhere in this Texas heat without noticing people going around sleeveless in order to stay a little cooler.

It might be okay with the latest summer fashion, but it is not good with our faith as a Christian. When it comes to our faith, as a believer in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, going sleeveless takes on a whole new meaning. If I were to write my intepretation of the message that Jesus was trying to convey in the bible verse above, using summer fashion terms, I think it would go something like this:

"If you call yourself one of my children, a Christian, you need to make it obvious to others around you. You need to walk like me, and talk like me, and treat other people as I would. In other words, you would need to wear your faith on your sleeve. You need to put me on as your fashion statement to the world.

People should easily tell from what you wore, meaning how you behaved in everything you do, that you were one of mine. Anyone would say, "Hey there goes a Christian", just by your dress and your actions.

No one can be a follower of mine, and yet go around sleeveless. Put on my cloak, dress up in my Spirit and show the world that you "wear" me! Then as you go by, I and my Father in heaven will be given all the glory from your fashion statement; what you wear is what you do and who you are."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Praise of Thanksgiving - July 22, 2010

Psalm 116 (New International Version)
1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.

2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

3 The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came upon me;
I was overcome by trouble and sorrow.

4 Then I called on the name of the LORD :
"O LORD, save me!"

5 The LORD is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.

6 The LORD protects the simplehearted;
when I was in great need, he saved me.

7 Be at rest once more, O my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.

8 For you, O LORD, have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling,

9 that I may walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

10 I believed; therefore I said,
"I am greatly afflicted."

11 And in my dismay I said,
"All men are liars."

12 How can I repay the LORD
for all his goodness to me?

13 I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD.

14 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.

15 Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his saints.

16 O LORD, truly I am your servant;
I am your servant, the son of your maidservant;
you have freed me from my chains.

17 I will sacrifice a thank offering to you
and call on the name of the LORD.

18 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,

19 in the courts of the house of the LORD—
in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD.

By now you have an understanding of how to proceed through your struggles and challenges through giving God the glory and praise before and duting the "battle". Now we have to be sure to offer up a praise of thanksgiving, once He has taken us through and helped us to overcome our difficulties.

When you commit your life to giving God more glory, it may seem to be a daunting task until we learn how to seek the Holy Spirit as we offer up our praises. Meditating and verbalizing the Psalms is a great way of offering up your your praise and thanks to God. The psalm above is a great one for that. Here is someone who has been rescued by God through a situation where he was near to death, and the psalmist lifts this "song(psalm) of praise" for what God has done for Him:

1 I love the LORD, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.

2 Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

You can hear the excitment, thankfulness and love for God that this man has as he offers up these words. As we read further the man recommits himself to God's service in thanksgiving for what has been done for him by the Lord.

In the same way, we need to remember to offer up our thanksgiving once our ordeal is over. Start by reading the words given to us by God himself, through the inspiration of His servants found in these psalms. If He has "heard your cry for mercy" and helped to rescue you, be sure to give Him the glory, and offer up your praise.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Never Too Much - July 21, 2010

Psalm 89:1-18 (New Century Version)
1 I will always sing about the Lord's love;
I will tell of his loyalty from now on.
2 I will say, "Your love continues forever;
your loyalty goes on and on like the sky."
3 You said, "I made an agreement with the man of my choice;
I made a promise to my servant David.
4 I told him, 'I will make your family continue forever.
Your kingdom will go on and on.' "

5 Lord, the heavens praise you for your miracles
and for your loyalty in the meeting of your holy ones.
6 Who in heaven is equal to the Lord?
None of the angels is like the Lord.
7 When the holy ones meet, it is God they fear.
He is more frightening than all who surround him.
8 Lord God All-Powerful, who is like you?
Lord, you are powerful and completely trustworthy.
9 You rule the mighty sea
and calm the stormy waves.
10 You crushed the sea monster Rahab;
by your power you scattered your enemies.

11 The skies and the earth belong to you.
You made the world and everything in it.
12 You created the north and the south.
Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon sing for joy at your name.
13 Your arm has great power.
Your hand is strong; your right hand is lifted up.
14 Your kingdom is built on what is right and fair.
Love and truth are in all you do.

15 Happy are the people who know how to praise you.
Lord, let them live in the light of your presence.
16 In your name they rejoice
and continually praise your goodness.
17 You are their glorious strength,
and in your kindness you honor our king.
18 Our king, our shield, belongs to the Lord,
to the Holy One of Israel.

As we learn how to overcome our difficulties by giving God glory, we need to always remember that we can never give Him too much glory. The amazing thing about this is that as we continuously focus on giving God praise and glory, and as we daily commit the problem to God, not only is it easier for us to go through, but you will notice that we conquer the situation much more quickly. As the psalmist above tells us:

15 Happy are the people who know how to praise you. Lord, let them live in the light of your presence. 16 In your name they rejoice and continually praise your goodness.

We need to develop a habit of utilizing this strategy of in everything we do, and also us it through every problem we encounter. Once we do, our lives will be more focused on serving God, and we will find our difficulties will be much less important. Our joy will show through in everything we do, and our new witness will be an attraction to others.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Overcome with Praise - July 20, 2010

Acts 16:23-34 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
23After they had hit Paul and Silas many times, they threw them in jail and ordered the jailer to keep them under tight security. 24So the jailer followed these orders and put Paul and Silas into solitary confinement with their feet in leg irons.

25Around midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. 26Suddenly, a violent earthquake shook the foundations of the jail. All the doors immediately flew open, and all the prisoners’ chains came loose.

27The jailer woke up and saw the prison doors open. Thinking the prisoners had escaped, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself. 28But Paul shouted as loudly as he could, “Don’t hurt yourself! We’re all here!”

29The jailer asked for torches and rushed into the jail. He was trembling as he knelt in front of Paul and Silas. 30Then he took Paul and Silas outside and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved?”

31They answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved.” 32They spoke the Lord’s word to the jailer and everyone in his home.

33At that hour of the night, the jailer washed Paul and Silas’ wounds. The jailer and his entire family were baptized immediately. 34He took Paul and Silas upstairs into his home and gave them something to eat. He and his family were thrilled to be believers in God.

We have committed the situation we are facing to the Lord and we acknowledge in prayer that we are stepping out in faith, giving Him the glory. So how does overcoming our difficulty look like? How do we ultimately give Him all the glory He is due, as we accomplish His will and are rescued through the situation by Him?

The story above about Paul and Silas is a great example for us. These two great leaders of the early Church were beaten and thrown into a seemingly hopeless situation because they were bringing others to salvation and belief in Jesus Christ. Confined in the deepest part of the prison, they were left in chains and their feet were even placed in stocks. Not a very good picture of those who are obedient to the Christian life. I am not sure many of us would hold up to that or any kind of persecution.

What did these guys do? They started "praying and singing hymns of praise"! They were praying and singing loud enough so that all of the other prisoners were listening to them. Imagine the joy that was filling that place, by the witness and "leading out in praise" of these two men of God! I am sure that many were thinking about the faith that these two had, and that their hearts were burning with the desire to know their secret.

If that weren't enough, we read that the miraculous happened. The chains were broken and the prison gates were opened by the hand of God. Even so, Paul and Silas stayed in that place to accomplish an even greater miracle of God. Again, because of their witness and faith, they brought salvation in Jesus to the jailer and His entire household. Many came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, by a horrible situation that resulted in a miraculous rescue, both physically and spiritually. This difficult situation brought God the glory He was due.

How often in our lives are faced with the prison of a very difficult situation? Read and meditate on this story in Acts. Follow the examples given by Paul and Silas as they sought to be obedient to God, were persecuted for it, and ultimately rescued by their Savior. Overcome the chains and bondage that you are in by prayerfully seeking Him and giving Him praise. Lead out in praise, and be a joyful witness and godly example to others, and point them to the Savior.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Lead with Praise - July 19, 2010

Joshua 6:2-5,15,20(GOD’S WORD Translation)
2The Lord said to Joshua, “I am about to hand Jericho, its king, and its warriors over to you. 3All the soldiers will march around the city once a day for six days. 4Seven priests will carry rams’ horns ahead of the ark. But on the seventh day you must march around the city seven times while the priests blow their horns. 5When you hear a long blast on the horn, all the troops must shout very loudly. The wall around the city will collapse. Then the troops must charge straight ahead into the city.”
15On the seventh day they got up at dawn. They marched around the city seven times the same way they had done it before. That was the only day they marched around it seven times.
20So the troops shouted very loudly when they heard the blast of the rams’ horns, and the wall collapsed. The troops charged straight ahead and captured the city.

Yesterday I wrote about how we needed to have confidence in God, because He has placed us in a particular situation for His purpose to bring Him glory. I also stated that if we wanted to be more effective and succesful in life, that we needed to make it a habit to give God more glory. So how do we accomplish that when we are faced with a difficult situation?

We need commit the situation to prayer, and we need to go out and lead with praise. You will note in the story above that Joshua and the people were given specific instruction, that they followed to the letter. The process lasted seven days, and each day they marched around the city blowing the ram's horn (in praise). On the seventh day they marched around seven times blowing the horn and gave a shout (to the Lord) and God delivered the city to them.

We too have to seek God's council in His word and be obedient to the instruction of the Holy Spirit. He will tells us what we need to do in the situation. We need to then lead out against the problem in prayer. A prayer in this sitution might go something like this:

"Father in Heaven I know that you know me as your child. Because I believe and have placed my life in your hands, and called on the name of Jesus for my salvation, I know that you want all things to work out for my good.

Lord I am being faced with a very difficult trial right now, and I know that you have placed me here for your reasons. I don't fully understand your purposes, but I ask that you will help me face this with joy and determination. I know you will be with me through this storm and I have confidence that you will help me to overcome this.

I praise your glorious name, and I give you thanks for being my Savior and Lord. I know that you are my hope and salvation and I give you all of the glory for rescuing me from this. I will accomplish your goals and your desires for my life, and I know that you have placed your desires in my heart, and my trust in you will not me in vain.

To you belongs the glory and I will praise you Lord from the depths of my heart in my love for you! In the name of your Son Jesus I pray, Amen!"

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Giving God Proper Glory - July 18, 2010

1 Chronicles 16:23-29 (New International Version)
23 Sing to the LORD, all the earth;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

24 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

25 For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.

26 For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.

27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy in his dwelling place.

28 Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength,

29 ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name.
Bring an offering and come before him;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Luke 19:37-40 (New Century Version)

37 As he was coming close to Jerusalem, on the way down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of followers began joyfully shouting praise to God for all the miracles they had seen. 38 They said,
"God bless the king who comes in the name of the Lord! — Psalm 118:26

There is peace in heaven and glory to God!"

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, tell your followers not to say these things."

40 But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if my followers didn't say these things, then the stones would cry out."

Do you call yourself a Christian, yet your life seems a bit confusing and without direction? Do you wonder sometimes if God is really in every circumstance? Do you wonder sometimes why don't things get better? Maybe its because you are not giving God the glory He is due. Maybe its because you are not setting the right first priority in your life, to give God thanks and glory in every situation.

I heard a great sermon today from Matthew Hagee, son of John Hagee from Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. He spoke about that giving God the glory He was due preceded every battle that Israel engaged in that they won the victory. He also mentioned that when Paul and Barnabas were imprisoned that when they sang praises and gave God glory the chains fell of and all of the prisoners were freed that night. Every great move or victory, both literally and spiritually, was accompanied by giving God worship and glory.

I checked the references and what Pastor Matthew was saying made alot of sense to me. Maybe I wasn't considering God and giving Him glory enough in all of my life's circumstances, whether they were good or bad. Often times as the pressures of life and the circumstances of the present economy weigh in on me, I don't think about having a worshipful heart and giving Him praise and glory at the moment. But that is the very time where I need to have confidence in God, because He has placed me in that particular situation for His purpose, to bring Him glory. I need to reach up in joy and prayerfully give Him the glory for the victory I will attain committing that situation to Him.

Want to be more effective and succesful in your life? Make it a habit to give God more glory in your life. Be sure that you are giving thanks for all things in your life. The very reason you are living and breathing is because of Him. You need to give Him thanks each mroning that He has given you life and another day to go out and serve Him with joy and thanksgiving. Make it a habit (and pass the habit on to your children and grandchildren)to pray and give thanks before every meal. Thank God continually for the successes in your life. Give thanks in the midst of every storm, giving God thanks in advance for the victory that will be won.

Be sure that you do not neglect taking time out each week to go to a good, bible preaching, praise giving, worshipful church, where you give Him glory and a portion of your time in worship. Thank Him for every paycheck you earn, and worship Him by bringing your tithes and offerings to the house of worship you support. Finally as you end your day, give Him thanks and glory for the things He has done in your life that day, and praise Him for all things.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Enthusiastic Work - June 17, 2010

Colossians 3:23-24 (New International Version)
23Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

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.

Ephesians 6:7-8 (New Century Version)
7 Do your work with enthusiasm. Work as if you were serving the Lord, not as if you were serving only men and women.8 Remember that the Lord will give a reward to everyone, slave or free, for doing good.

Do you like your job? Do you really like the work you are doing? According to 2008 surveys from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, the average person born in the later years of the baby boom held 10.8 jobs from age 18 to age 42. Nearly two-thirds of these jobs were held from ages 18 to 27. Wow! That is alot of job changes!

We spend alot of our lifetime working, and God had mankind working even before the fall. In Genesis 2:15(NCV) we read, "The Lord God put the man in the garden of Eden to care for it and work it." (As we read further we also find out that He had the man name all of the animals of Creation.) Work was an extension of God's character that was created into mankind. What that means is that God is about work. Our work becomes a form of worshipping God, and because of this, it is something we need to do as if we are working directly for God.

I believe the problem we fall into with our attitude about work can also be found in Genesis. As a result of mankind's disobedience, work took on a different meaning in the heart of man:
Genesis 3:17-19 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
17Then he said to the man, “You listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree, although I commanded you, ‘You must never eat its fruit.’

The ground is cursed because of you. Through hard work you will eat food that comes from it every day of your life. 18The ground will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat wild plants.

19By the sweat of your brow, you will produce food to eat until you return to the ground, because you were taken from it. You are dust, and you will return to dust.”

If we are to truly "work at it with all our heart,as working for the Lord", we need to find out what God has designed us to do, and then do it prayerfully seeking God's best in everything we do. We will probably have to do alot of jobs that we are not too excited about doing, but if we will always maintain a worshipful attitude and work at our best, the job will be alot easier for us to handle. As Christians we are to always serve as the ambassadors of Christ in every work place. Our example to others will serve to point those who don't yet know Jesus, to the One who gave His best work for us.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Be Blessed - July 16, 2010

Psalm 112 (New International Version)

1 Praise the LORD. [Hallelujah!]
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
who finds great delight in his commands.

2 His children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.

4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.

5 Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice.

6 Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.

7 He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.

8 His heart is secure, he will have no fear;
in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.

9 He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor,
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn [dignity] will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked man will see and be vexed,
he will gnash his teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

Want to know what it means to be blessed? Do you know what you can expect from living a God focused life serving Him? This psalm is written as an acrostic poem, the lines of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is a great biblical description for what it means to be blessed, and it shows us what happens when we live lives focused on God and His desires.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Can you lose your Salvation? - July 15, 2010

Hebrews 6:4-6 (New International Version)
4It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, 6if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
4Some people once had God’s light. They experienced the heavenly gift and shared in the Holy Spirit. 5They experienced the goodness of God’s word and the powers of the world to come. 6Yet, they have deserted Christ. They are crucifying the Son of God again and publicly disgracing him. Therefore, they cannot be led a second time to God.

Can you lose your salvation? Once you have believed and accepted that Jesus died as a payment in full for our sins, can you fall back into a sinful life and be lost forever? This has always been a hard passage for many, and it has always been a source of anxiety for Christians.

The Bible seems to state so clearly that once we come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ that God will not ever let you fall away. Read these words from Jesus:

John 6:37-40 (New Living Translation)
37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. 38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Paul also touched on this in these verses from his letter to the Romans:

Romans 8:35-39 (New International Reader's Version)

35 Who can separate us from Christ's love? Can trouble or hard times or harm or hunger? Can nakedness or danger or war? 36 It is written,
"Because of you, we face death all day long.
We are considered as sheep to be killed." —(Psalm 44:22)

37 No! In all these things we will do even more than win! We owe it all to Christ, who has loved us.

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.

There has long been a dispute between those who believe in "eternal security" and those who don't. Those on the "eternal security" side state that once you have been saved, even if you backslide (fall back into a sinful lifestyle), you will always be saved from going to hell. The other side believes that if you fall back into a sinful lifestyle, you can lose your salvation and end up in hell. The verses above in Hebrews certainly seem to confirm this.

This is how I see it: First of all, if your conscience is bothering you whether or not you have passed the point stated in the verse above, then you are probably alright. Not that you should be testing God by continuing to sin, but I believe that if you truly believe with you whole being that Jesus Christ died for your sins, you have accepted His work on the cross, that God has forgiven you, and from that point on you will seek to lead a new life God's way, you are going to spend eternity with Him. The Bible is too full of promises for the repentant believer for it to be any other way.

The important word here is "repentance", turning away from your former life of sin. Once you have accepted Christ's work of salvation, a believer should always be continually working on living the right way with God's help, and working on Jesus being the Lord of their life:

Philippians 2:12-13 (New International Version)
12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Second of all, it defeats God's purpose for our lives if we are constantly wondering if we are saved or not. Christ died once in for all for the sins of all the people; past, present and future. Once we have accepted this, we need to move on, working daily to know God better and seeking to please Him. Doing otherwise, puts the focus on our works, rather than on what Jesus did on our behalf.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (New International Version)
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

So if you are worried whether or not you will lose your salvation, good. Stop doing the things you shouldn't, turn away from it and start leading the life that God expects you to live.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Abundance - July 14, 2010

Luke 6:38 (New American Standard Bible)
38"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return."

Luke 6:38 (New Century Version)
38 Give, and you will receive. You will be given much. Pressed down, shaken together, and running over, it will spill into your lap. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you."

Mark 4:24 (New Century Version)
24 "Think carefully about what you hear. The way you give to others is the way God will give to you, but God will give you even more.

Much has been said about giving these days, but for the believer the act of giving takes on a very spiritual meaning. God is aware of everything we do, and the attitude of our hearts during the act that we are doing. He seeks for us to have a generous heart, giving of ourselves in generosity, and with that same generosity it will be returend to us by God. Don't get me wrong, I am not talking just about material possessions or money.

Our giving can take many forms. Let's say that you spend your time serving in a homeless shelter or helping with the children in Sunday School. This is a gift of your time and service. After it is done and you reflect on it, don't you receive as much if not more benefit from your act and gift of serving others?

God wants us to live in abundance. He wants us to have it all. He demonstrated that to us by giving us the greatest gift of all; His Son Jesus Christ as the payment for our sins. In light of that, abundance in living is achieved through the transformation of our hearts, where we freely give everything in thanks and gratitude to God for His unquestionable love. Freely give because of what you have been freely given.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Fault Finders - July 13, 2010

Luke 6:41-42 (New Century Version)
41 "Why do you notice the little piece of dust in your friend's eye, but you don't notice the big piece of wood in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your friend, 'Friend, let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye' when you cannot see that big piece of wood in your own eye! You hypocrite! First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your friend's eye.

Are you a critical person? I mean do you find fault with those around you? Do you always see a better way that someone else could be doing something? Do you tend to be a little judgemental with those closest to you? All of these questions pertain to the person that is hyper-critical; that person that is always finding fault with others.

I really believe Jesus was talking about a matter of the "heart and soul" when he made these comments about finding fault with others. In fact he pointed out that usually the person finding fault will pick at the most insignificant thing, while they have a huge problem themselves. What Jesus is pointing out is that unless we are without fault, we should not be pointing out the faults in others.

Often those that are hyper-critical are not looking at the other person in love. If you are exhibiting the true love of Christ, the kind he showed us by dying for our faults, you will see past the faults and problems of others and see the good in them. If you have the "heart and soul" of Jesus, you will build people up and overcome their fault with your overwhelming love. Jesus saw past our significant problems and faults and gave himself to us anyway. Isn't it time we did the same?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Take a Stand for Jesus - July 12, 2010

Matthew 10:32-33 (New International Version)
32"Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

Matthew 10:32-33 (New Century Version)
32 "All those who stand before others and say they believe in me, I will say before my Father in heaven that they belong to me. 33 But all who stand before others and say they do not believe in me, I will say before my Father in heaven that they do not belong to me.

Romans 10:9-10 (New Living Translation)
9 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.

Revelation 3:5 (New Century Version)
5 Those who win the victory will be dressed in white clothes like them. And I will not erase their names from the book of life, but I will say they belong to me before my Father and before his angels.

Are you embarassed to be called a Christian? Do you feel uncomfortable around people at work to tell them about Jesus? Do you "wear your faith on your sleeve", meaning do the people that know you, know that you are a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you up front and personal when it comes to telling others about Him?

It is "open season" on Christians! It seems that the only people that can be bashed, insulted, despised, ridiculed and persecuted without any consequences are Christians. For many it is all a big joke that anyone believes in a guy that called himself God and died on a cross. Tell someone that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven and see how quickly you will be attacked as being offensive to others.

Yet believing in Jesus Christ as your Savior and the Lord of your life, requires that you take a stand. No one can be a closet Christian. You have to be out front about it. You need to tell everyone you know what and why you believe in Him. If you are not prepared to do so, you need to check your faith.

A time is coming when we will become more aware of the persecution our brothers and sisters in Christ face each and every day. Their hope is in the words contained in the verses above. Will you be as prepared to proudly wear the name of the One true Savior of mankind? Will you boldly tell others that you believe in Jesus?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

True Forgiveness - July 11, 2010

Micah 7:18-19 (New International Version)
18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.

19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

Psalm 103:12 (New Century Version)
12 He has taken our sins away from us as far as the east is from west.

Ephesians 1:7-9 (New Century Version)
7 In Christ we are set free by the blood of his death, and so we have forgiveness of sins. How rich is God's grace,8 which he has given to us so fully and freely. God, with full wisdom and understanding,9 let us know his secret purpose. This was what God wanted, and he planned to do it through Christ.

Romans 4:5-8 (New Century Version)
5 But people cannot do any work that will make them right with God. So they must trust in him, who makes even evil people right in his sight. Then God accepts their faith, and that makes them right with him. 6 David said the same thing. He said that people are truly blessed when God, without paying attention to their deeds, makes people right with himself.

7 "Blessed are they whose sins are forgiven, whose wrongs are pardoned.
8 Blessed is the person whom the Lord does not consider guilty." — Psalm 32:1–2

It is good to know that we don't have to really do anything to be forgiven by God. Jesus has done the work for us, paying for the debt owe God for our sin and wrongdoing. Because of this, God ignores our sins and sees Christ's righteousness when He looks at us. All we have to do is to ask for God's forgiveness and trust in Jesus' who has saved us. You can start over today by leaving it all to Him.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Continuous Praise - July 10, 2010

Psalm 71 (New King James Version)
God the Rock of Salvation
1 In You, O LORD, I put my trust;
Let me never be put to shame.
2 Deliver me in Your righteousness, and cause me to escape;
Incline Your ear to me, and save me.
3 Be my strong refuge,
To which I may resort continually;
You have given the commandment to save me,
For You are my rock and my fortress.

4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,
Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.
5 For You are my hope, O Lord GOD;
You are my trust from my youth.
6 By You I have been upheld from birth;
You are He who took me out of my mother’s womb.
My praise shall be continually of You.

7 I have become as a wonder to many,
But You are my strong refuge.
8 Let my mouth be filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all the day.

9 Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
And those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together,
11 Saying, “God has forsaken him;
Pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him.”

12 O God, do not be far from me;
O my God, make haste to help me!
13 Let them be confounded and consumed
Who are adversaries of my life;
Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor
Who seek my hurt.

14 But I will hope continually,
And will praise You yet more and more.
15 My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness
And Your salvation all the day,
For I do not know their limits.
16 I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.

17 O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come.

19 Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high,
You who have done great things;
O God, who is like You?
20 You, who have shown me great and severe troubles,
Shall revive me again,
And bring me up again from the depths of the earth.
21 You shall increase my greatness,
And comfort me on every side.

22 Also with the lute I will praise You—
And Your faithfulness, O my God!
To You I will sing with the harp,
O Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to You,
And my soul, which You have redeemed.
24 My tongue also shall talk of Your righteousness all the day long;
For they are confounded,
For they are brought to shame
Who seek my hurt.

In the face of difficulty, it is always important to give God continuous praise. No matter what, as a believer the Lord will be your deliverer. He will restore you in times of trouble. We need to always have His praise on our lips. You will be amazed how quickly you will find rest in Him.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Exuberant Praise - July 9, 2010

2 Samuel 6:14-15 (New Living Translation)
14 And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. 15 So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.

Psalm 149:1-4 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
1Hallelujah! Sing a new song to the Lord.
Sing his praise in the assembly of godly people.
2Let Israel find joy in their creator.
Let the people of Zion rejoice over their king.
3Let them praise his name with dancing.
Let them make music to him with tambourines and lyres,
4because the Lord takes pleasure in his people.
He crowns those who are oppressed with victory.

Psalm 150 (New Living Translation)
1 Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heaven!
2 Praise him for his mighty works;
praise his unequaled greatness!
3 Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
praise him with the lyre and harp!
4 Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
praise him with strings and flutes!
5 Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
6 Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

I grew up in a church that had a lot of standing and sitting, but very little "exuberant praise" to the Lord. For many centuries in the church the people have been stifled in their praise, and have not had the benefit of exhibiting their joy for what the Lord has done for them. In fact many denominations have become very legalistic in what they allow you to do in worship, not allowing the congregation to truly express themselves, to the point that some even prohibit the use of instruments. No wonder many have become disallusioned and bored with the denominational church.

There is nothing more inportant than giving God thanks for His gift of Jesus Christ in our lives. These days, I am glad that there has been a revitalization of praise and worship in many churches. We should follow the example of King David, who was called a man after God's own heart. In the passage from 2 Samuel we read how he unashamedly danced in front of the people and the presence of God (who's earthly presence was represented in the Ark of the Covenant at the time). This occurred over 3000 years ago as David led the worship of the people in God's presence.

So if you are timid about raising your hands or moving to contemporary praise and worship music, let go and worship God with your entire being. It really is okay, and he is deserving of all of our praise.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Overcomers - July 8, 2010

1 John 5:3-5 (New International Version)
3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

Revelation 2:7,11,17,26 (New International Version)
7He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.
17He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.
26To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I will give authority over the nations—

Revelation 3:5,12,21 (New International Version)
5He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.
12Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name.
21To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.

Revelation 21:6-7 (New International Version)
6He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.

Okay, we go through our daily trials and troubles with a future hope, an assurance from God that we have something to look forward to. What does God promise us if we endure and overcome our hardships? The verses above tell us what is in store for those who overcome. Believe it and receive it, because it is through our belief in Jesus Christ that we will truly become overcomers.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Future Hope - July 7, 2010

Romans 8:18-25 (New International Reader's Version)
18 What we are suffering now is nothing compared with the glory that will be shown in us. 19 Everything God created looks forward to the time when his children will appear in their full and final glory. 20 The created world was bound to fail. But that was not the result of its own choice. It was planned that way by the One who made it. God planned 21 to set the created world free. He didn't want it to rot away completely. Instead, he wanted it to have the same glorious freedom that his children have.

22 We know that all that God created has been groaning. It is in pain as if it were giving birth to a child. The created world continues to groan even now. 23 And that's not all. We have the Holy Spirit as the promise of future blessing. But we also groan inside ourselves as we look forward to the time when God will adopt us as full members of his family. Then he will give us everything he has for us. He will raise our bodies and give glory to them.

24 That's the hope we had when we were saved. But hope that can be seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25 We hope for what we don't have yet. So we are patient as we wait for it.

So if we are faced with all of this trouble in the world that Jesus promised we would encounter, what are we to do? How are we to relieve ourselves from the stresses and pressures that occur when we are burdened by our troubles? God tells us through the letter Paul wrote to the Romans that to overcome the troubles, we are to look ahead to our future hope.

We live in a fallen world, and mankind within that world is fallen as well. But God gives us the assurance that we have something to look foward to. As a mother looks forward to the birth of a child through the pain and suffering of labor, so too all those who struggle through their own personal suffering do so in anticipation of something better in their future. This may not be realized in this lifetime, but God has given us a hope and glorious future that can only be realized through our belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Trouble - July 6, 2010

1 Peter 4:12-19 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
12Dear friends, don’t be surprised by the fiery troubles that are coming in order to test you. Don’t feel as though something strange is happening to you, 13but be happy as you share Christ’s sufferings. Then you will also be full of joy when he appears again in his glory. 14If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed because the Spirit of glory—the Spirit of God—is resting on you.

15If you suffer, you shouldn’t suffer for being a murderer, thief, criminal, or troublemaker. 16If you suffer for being a Christian, don’t feel ashamed, but praise God for being called that name. 17The time has come for the judgment to begin, and it will begin with God’s family. If it starts with us, what will be the end for those who refuse to obey the Good News of God?19Those who suffer because that is God’s will for them must entrust themselves to a faithful creator and continue to do what is good.

I don't know about you, but things are tough out there right now. If it is not something fiancial, it is something relational; if it is not sickness it is the passing of a loved one. Not a day goes by that I don't hear of someone that is going through some kind of difficulty. And those who are Christians are not immune from the trouble. Day after day it is one difficulty after another, one trouble after another.

Take heart Christian, because you are sharing in Christ's sufferings, and you are not "home" yet. Jesus promised us that we would encounter trouble in this world, but he also promised that he had overcome the world(John 16:33. He also told us that the world would hate us because we believed in him (John 15:18-19). It does not make it easier to go through, but know that each and every trouble you go through is known by God and He will give you the strength to go through it.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Defending Liberty - July 5, 2010

Lamentations 3:33-36 (New International Version)
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men. 34 To crush underfoot all prisoners in the land, 35 to deny a man his rights before the Most High, 36 to deprive a man of justice— would not the Lord see such things?

Tyranny, oppression, the abolition of human rights, etc., these are not things of God. As we have read in previous posts, He has placed freedom in every heart, and although He does appoint rulers over the people, He expects justice and liberty for all. It is the obligation and right of all people to oppose tyranny and injustice whenever they can. We are to be God's standard bearer as we seek governance that is moral and righteous.

As we close out another Independence Day weekend, remember that without the involvement of the people, our Nation cannot stand forever. Ask yourself what you would do if you woke up one day, and all of your rights had been taken away?

"Resistance to tyranny becomes the Christian and social duty of each individual. ... Continue steadfast and, with a proper sense of your dependence on God, nobly defend those rights which heaven gave, and no man ought to take from us."

John Hancock,1st Signer of the Declaration of Independence --History of the United States of America, Vol. II, p. 229.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day - July 4, 2010

Luke 4:17-19 (New International Version)
17The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

2 Corinthians 3:17 (New International Version)
17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

In his anticipation of what he was about to be a part of, John Adams,2nd U.S. President and signer of the Declaration of Independence, wrote the following:

"The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever."
--Adams wrote this in a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776.

Not that the Scripture verses above apply directly to Independence Day, but wherever there is freedom, there are the "fingerprints" of God. God has instilled in every heart the desire to be free; freedom of self-expression, freedom to assemble, freedom to worship, freedom to govern ourselves. God laid out the first framework for governing ourselves in the Ten Commandments(Deuteronomy, Chapter 5), and it later served as a basis by which we established our own declarations and laws in the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights.

As you celebrate this 4th of July, take the time with your family to read these God inspired documents. Teach your children and grandchildren about what we have as a Nation, and the importance of defending our rights and freedoms. Participate in your own governance, and make it clear to all elected officials your desires to uphold our founding principles. Reaffirm your commitment to preserve this Nation and to fight for her with ballot and pen. And most importantly, pray for this Nation that God would continue to bless this land.

"When we view the blessings with which our country has been favored, those which we now enjoy, and the means which we possess of handing them down unimpaired to our latest posterity, our attention is irresistibly drawn to the source from whence they flow. Let us then, unite in offering our most grateful acknowledgements for these blessings to the Divine Author of All Good."--James Monroe,5th U.S. President, made this statement in his 2nd Annual Message to Congress, November 16, 1818

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our Biblical Heritage - July 3, 2010

Leviticus 25:1-2;10;18-19 (New International Version)
1 The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD.
10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.
18 "Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. 19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety."

Our forefathers were very aware of the God of the Bible and His actions with ancient Israel. The stories of the Exodus, the journey of the Israelites through the desert, and finally into the "promised land", seemed so very familiar as they sought to construct a new nation. They knew of how God dealt with a wayward people, and how His justice ultimately drove them from the land He had given them.

Today many would say that our founders did not build this Nation based on Judeo-Christian principles. They would choose to get rid of any such notion, and direct us down a dangerous, secular path. But for our founding fathers, these stories served to give them a foundation to build a new Nation based on principles and lessons from the Bible. We can clearly read this as we study these words from Thomas Jefferson,our 3rd U.S. President, drafter and signer of the Declaration of Independence:

"God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever; That a revolution of the wheel of fortune, a change of situation, is among possible events; that it may become probable by Supernatural influence! The Almighty has no attribute which can take side with us in that event." --Notes on the State of Virginia, Query XVIII, p. 237.

For all of you who strive to uphold our heritage as a Nation, remember how we came to be, and the type of men that helped to make it happen. Embrace the fact of our biblical heritage, and study for yourself how the Word of God helped to make our Nation great. Tomorrow on the 4th of July, celebrate our country's birthday by renewing your commitment to follow God's decrees and be careful to obey His laws, and you will live safely in the land.

"I am a real Christian – that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ."--The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, p. 385.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Our Civic Duty - July 2, 2010

Deuteronomy 10:12-16 (New Century Version)
12 Now, Israel, this is what the Lord your God wants you to do: Respect the Lord your God, and do what he has told you to do. Love him. Serve the Lord your God with your whole being,13 and obey the Lord's commands and laws that I am giving you today for your own good.

14 The Lord owns the world and everything in it—the heavens, even the highest heavens, are his.15 But the Lord cared for and loved your ancestors, and he chose you, their descendants, over all the other nations, just as it is today.16 Give yourselves completely to serving him, and do not be stubborn any longer.

In the 14th Century before the birth of Christ, Moses returned from the presence of God to the people of Israel, to present the law he had been given. The nation of Israel was at the threshold of entering the land given to them by God, and at the precipice of establishing a new nation. In his address to the people, Moses gave them the Lord's direction for what they were to do, and he codified their laws for living in the Ten Commandments.

Over many many centuries later, another man stood at the precipice of establishing a new nation, that declared its independence from an oppressive power, and were waged in a war that would determine the existance of the new nation. As he led his troops in battle and later as he led the new nation as its first President, George Washington often depended on his faith in Jesus Christ and his knowledge of the word of God. Inthe following statement, he too lays out directions for what they were to do:

"While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian."
--The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343

As we stop to celebrate this 234th Birthday of our beloved Nation, let's reflect on our duties to the country and the people that we steward. Let's embrace the admonition of George Washington, and let's take to heart these words from Moses that are as true today as they were over 3000 years ago:

"...the Lord cared for and loved your ancestors, and he chose you, their descendants, over all the other nations, just as it is today. Give yourselves completely to serving him, and do not be stubborn any longer."
--Deuteronomy 10:15-16

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Call to the Nation - July 1, 2010

Isaiah 6:1,5,8-10 (New Century Version)
1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a very high throne. His long robe filled the Temple.
5 I said, "Oh, no! I will be destroyed. I am not pure, and I live among people who are not pure, but I have seen the King, the Lord All-Powerful."
8 Then I heard the Lord's voice, saying, "Whom can I send? Who will go for us?" So I said, "Here I am. Send me!"

In the year 740 B.C., the prophet Isaiah was called to speak for God to the people of Israel. He went on to prophecy to them that their nation would come to an end. They had strayed from the worship and reverance of the One true God, who had established their country and had given them their land. In response to the blessings of God, they went on to worhip other pagan gods, carry out detestable acts and fall into courruption and sin.

God went on to send numerous prophets to warn the people of their impending destruction, but they hardened their hearts and didn't listen. Israel went eventually was conquered and exiled, returned and conquered again, until finally in 70 A.D., the Romans crushed a Jewish rebellion, Jerusalem was destroyed, and the Jewish people were scattered through out the world. They would not officially return to their God given land until almost 1900 years later, when in 1948 the State of Israel was re-established.

Today, we as a Nation are faced with the same situation. We are a corrupt and sinful country that has turned its back on God. On a much smaller level, we come across people around us at work and in our own households, that are lost and fallen away from God. In face of this situation, who will God send to turn the heart of the Nation? In our generation, who will go for God? Who will be the difference maker in the lives of the lost people around us, as they struggle to find their way in this land? Are we as ready as Isaiah was to say, "Here I am. Send me!"