Tuesday, September 30, 2014

True Value - September 30, 2014

Matthew 6:25-27(New International Version)
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

If you have studied the Bible or sat in a few church pews, you probably have read these verses or heard a sermon based on them. On the face of it is is very understandable; in the verses Jesus is illustrating how much God cares for those who love Him, and you were encouraged not to worry or be anxious about you life because God would take care of you. That is completely true, but I believe the real lesson to be learned is how God cares for you.

I like the picture above because it is a great photograph of how God shows His care. The verses state, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them". Truth is though that just as the person above gives a helping hand by offering food to the bird, God uses various means at His disposal to provide and care of His children, including other people. Surrounding you are various opportunities and people that God has placed in your life. This makes it possible for you to receive God's care.

Many people wrongly expect that God will act like He did in the story of the Exodus with the Israelites in the desert, where He supplied manna and quail everyday for them to live on. They were to eat only enough for the day, because all of the leftovers wouldn't last through the night. The next morning there again was manna and quail for them to gather and eat(Exodus 16).

These days I don't suspect we will receive much manna from Heaven, although God does work miraculously in some circumstances. Instead God provides us with the ability and opportunity to receive His care through the things He places in our lives. The birds still have to go around and find what God has provided for them to eat. For us too, it is our responsibility to seek out God's provision, and then work and be obedient to His direction.

If we focus on Him, we will daily find those things He places in our lives. It is up to us to utilize them for our needs, and acknowledge the One who has given it to us.

Photo from audobon.biz

Monday, September 29, 2014

Silver Lining - September 29, 2014

2 Corinthians 1:3-5(New International Version)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

5 For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

We have been talking allot about going through tough times in my postings. The way things are in the world these days, it seems that there are many people out there that are going through some kind of trouble. Almost on a daily basis I hear about difficulties, whether it's a job layoff or illness, or financial distress, many people out there are going through a something. Following Jesus we aren't immune to be difficulties, they come into our lives as well.

What is important for us to learn is what we do with what we are going through; the lessons that we learn while going through trouble. Many times the trouble and difficulty we go through as a Christ follower are for a purpose. God takes us through "stuff" to demonstrate His mercy, grace and power in our circumstances. He is in our deepest valleys with us, and when we climb out we have a story to tell of His goodness. He identifies with us through Christ's sufferings, and we can be assured that He will be there if we stay close to Jesus.

What we need to remember is that every difficulty we will go through will have a "silver lining". God will bring us through it; it is up to us to help others that are going through what we have just been through, and to share the comfort that a relationship with Jesus Christ can bring. We all are surrounded by friends and others that are having problems. Be sure that you are there to help.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Being "Salty" - September 28, 2014

Matthew 5:13(New International Version)
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

For many centuries salt has been one of the most important commodities in the world. It has been used for preserving foods, for currency, for balancing the blood, for adding taste to foods, and many other things. Our world and our bodies could not function without salt. In fact four-fifths of the world is covered in oceans that are full of salt; it adds to our lives in countless ways.

Jesus used this very important compound to speak of how followers of God need to be engaged in the world around them, while being different from the world. As Christians, this is the directive we need to follow, engaging others by living Christ-like lives, and making a difference in the world around them.

If we fail to be any different from those in the world, then we can no longer represent the difference that Jesus brings into people's lives. We will lose our ability to help bring effective change in people's lives that only belief in Jesus will. He is the Savior of the world, and a person's acceptance of His work on the cross as payment for personal sins changes lives.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, don't lose your effectiveness by becoming a part of the world and diluting your witness. Instead, stand upon the Rock who is mighty to save, and be living examples of Christ.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Worldly Fools - September 27, 2014

Proverbs 1:7(New American Standard Bible)
7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 9:10(Amplified Bible)
10The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning (the chief and choice part) of Wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight and understanding.

Job 28:28(New International Version)
28 And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”

Revelation 14:7(New International Version)
7 He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

There are many out there in the world that refuse to "bow the knee" to Jesus Christ. They pursue the lusts of the world and arrogantly snub anything having to do with Christianity. They have disdain for anyone that has a relationship with Jesus, and they would rather ridicule others than to admit their own sinfulness.

This is especially true for young adults that have gone through the brainwashing of today's colleges and are now establishing themselves in their careers and lives. They may have even had introductions to church and "religion", thinking that is what Christianity was all about. These days they would rather have nothing to do with it. They are having too much fun partying and living the "good life", and they have no need for God.

There will come a time in everyone's life when they will have to face up to their sinfulness, because in a 100 years from now, everyone reading this will probably be dead. Believe it or not, we don't end up as nothing but dirt once we die, as the world would hope we would believe. We are eternal creatures and one day everyone will stand before God to be judged for what they have done in this life.

If you believe that your judged by your good outweighing your bad, just exactly when have you done enough to tip the scale in your favor? If you believe that your better than rapists and murderers and that God will take that into account, how do you know He will? Some believe that being an ostrich and sticking their heads in the sand will make it all go away are in for a real surprise. And others that may feel that by being "religious and spiritual" will gain God's favor have to know when they have done enough.

All of these things may seem right, but in the end they lead to destruction. We can never do enough to gain God's favor and forgiveness, because just a single act of disobedience condemns us forever. Only by accepting His gift of salvation through Jesus Christ can we ever be redeemed. Doesn't sound politically correct, but it is the truth. The sooner the foolish in this world figure that out, the better off they will be.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Our Inheritance - September 26, 2014

Colossians 1:3-6;9-14 (New Living Translation)
3 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, 5 which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.

6 This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.
9 So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

There has always been two kinds of money in socio-economic terms for the rich; there is "Old Money" and "New Money". Old money is "the inherited wealth of established upper-class families" or "a person, family, or lineage possessing inherited wealth."[1] The term typically describes families wealthy for generations. The Nouveau riche (French for "new rich"), or new money, refers to a person who has acquired considerable wealth within his or her generation.[2]

Much is always made in our society about these two classes of people, and many of us get caught up in the trap of wanting to be part of one of these groups. We labor for our entire lives striving for making it at least to the latter of these, the "New Money" group, but try as we might, very few of us will get there. I do believe it is because God has other, bigger, grander plans for us.

In "Old Money", the wealth and money that is accumulated is inherited. This means that recipient does very little to receive the benefit of the inheritance. It has been given through someone else's effort, and they are the beneficiary of the inheritance by fact of birth alone. Many times the gift of the inheritance passed by means of a will, and after this legal process has occurred, the wealth is conveyed. In many cases, because these people did little or nothing to receive the gift they have been given, they usually repay that gesture by behaving badly, squandering and wasting the gift.

When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, who has redeemed and rescued us from our sins, and our Lord, who calls us to live a holy life in gratitude for His gift, we too receive an inheritance. We receive the inheritance of sharing in the future kingdom of God. Just as in the inheritance of "Old Money", we have done nothing to enable us to be the beneficiary of God's gift. It is because of Christ's death on the cross that has allowed us to be offered the inheritance. Once we accept the truth of salvation, the inheritance of God's grace is conveyed to us.

This is an amazing exchange of a wealth that is far more valuable and precious than money. But we can squander this gift just as the some that inherit money do; we can behave badly and waste the precious gift. Thank God that in His infinite mercy, He continues to extend His grace. This is an eternal gift that can never be revoked, because it is based on God's effort and not ours.

As we read in Colossians, we need to seek God, so that He can give us "complete knowledge of his will", and give us "spiritual wisdom and understanding". We need to always live to "honor and please the Lord", so that we might produce "good fruit" of the spirit that helps us to grow and be pleasing to God. Accept the inheritance given us through Jesus Christ, and make every effort to be good son or daughter of the King that will serve Him as a "good and faithful servant".

[1]"Old Money" The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 05 Nov. 2008 as noted from Wikepedia
[2]"Nouveau riche" Merriam Webster. as noted from Wikepedia

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Our God Reigns! - September 25, 2014

Psalm 93(New International Version)
1 The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.

2 Your throne was established long ago; you are from all eternity.

3 The seas have lifted up, LORD,
the seas have lifted up their voice;
the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.

4 Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
mightier than the breakers of the sea—
the LORD on high is mighty.

5 Your statutes, LORD, stand firm;
holiness adorns your house
for endless days.

No matter what you believe or what religion you practice, there is but one truth. All faiths cannot be true, because they don't all agree. Each has a different concept of who God is, so how can they all be equal? How can they ALL be true? It doesn't make logical sense. Their can only be one truth of who God is, and only one person claimed that truth.

Only Jesus Christ said that He was God(John 10:30,13:13), and that when we saw Him we saw the Father(John 14:9-10). Only He claimed to be at the beginning of all things(John 1:1,8:58). Only Jesus said that He was the truth and the way to eternal life(John 14:6). He is either a nut, a liar or God in the flesh. There is no doubt about the historical Jesus Christ. There is more documentary proof for Him than there is for the life of Julius Caesar.

If you are reading this and you don't believe in Him, there will be a specific day and time when you will be called to account for your stand(Romans 14:12,2Corinthians 5:10). The Bible tells us that Jesus was the final revelation of God(Hebrews 1:1-3), and as such we will either surrender to Him now or in the next life when it is too late(Philippians 2:9-11).

Know this our God reigns, and Jesus reigns in Him and with Him. Welcome the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God, and surrender yourself to Him. Check out the verses above for yourself; seek Him in prayer and He will reveal the truth to you. You need only see, read and hear what is going on in the world around you to know that something significant is happening. Now more than ever, you need to make a decision, and the one you make will determine your eternal destiny.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Blinded by the Light - September 24, 2014

Isaiah 26:9-13(New Century Version)
9 My soul wants to be with you at night, and my spirit wants to be with you at the dawn of every day. When your way of justice comes to the land, people of the world will learn the right way of living.

10 Evil people will not learn to do good even if you show them kindness. They will continue doing evil, even if they live in a good world; they never see the Lord's greatness.

11 Lord, you are ready to punish those people, but they do not see that. Show them your strong love for your people. Then those who are evil will be ashamed. Burn them in the fire you have prepared for your enemies.

12 Lord, all our success is because of what you have done, so give us peace.

13 Lord, our God, other masters besides you have ruled us, but we honor only you.

John 3:19(GOD’S WORD Translation)
19This is why people are condemned: The Light came into the world. Yet, people loved the dark rather than the light because their actions were evil.

Have you ever been up very early in the morning, just before the sun comes up? Especially on a moonless night, it can be pitch black, and just before dawn a faint sliver of light begins to illuminate the darkness. You realize how little light is needed to begin to light up the darkness. It starts out very faintly, but as the minutes pass, the sliver soon begins to fill the sky. The sun hasn't risen yet, but the sky begins to warm up in beautiful hews of purple and red, then orange, and soon yellows. It is a beautiful and amazing, and each day is different from the last.

So it was when Christ came into the dark world, and so too it is in many parts of the world today. The love of Christ begins ever so faintly, in the life of a believer or two, but soon it is illuminating many hearts as the light of Jesus begins to light up the dark souls of many it encounters. Even so, there will be those who choose to stay in the darkness, those who are blinded by the light, and would rather hide where it's dark. If only they allowed a little light to shine in, they would soon feel the warmth of Christ's love.

Many of us may have been in that same situation at one time in our lives, and some reading this might still be there. Although they know of the light of Jesus Christ, they choose to run away from it, and go hide where it's dark. They are so deep in the darkness of their sinful lives, that when Christ's light begins to shine, they would rather not face it. They are happier in the darkness than they are in the light. Darkness hides their true selves, and they fear what the light of day will show.

The Light of God, Jesus Christ, has come into the world. We need to embrace it and allow it to warm our souls. Otherwise we may be trapped in the darkness forever, and find out that we don't want to end up there.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Setting Priorities - September 23, 2014

1 John 2:15-16(New Living Translation)
15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

What is important in your life? What do you seek after? What have you set as your priorities? Our world sets us on a path from early on to go for all that "brass ring". Our entire focus in life from high school on is to have fun and get as much as we can out of life. Everything around us if geared that way. You need only look at what the media around us is pushing into our minds, to know that the goal of the world is to focus us on what we can get.

For instance, do you remember being told that you needed to get the best grades, to get into the best colleges, to get the best jobs, to get the best positions, to get into the best company, to get the most money, to wear the best clothes, to get the best car, to get into the best parties, to get the best spouse, to get the best house, to get into the best community, to get into the best city, and on and on it went. And if you were an athlete, it was even worse.

A life of humility, poverty and piety is only reserved for a priest or a zealot, yet from the verse above, can you figure out which one is from God? Not that God wants us not to enjoy our lives, and not that He does not bless us with the best in life, but what is your primary focus? That has to be the question for everyone that call on the name of Jesus Christ and desires to follow after Him. Make sure that your priority is placed where it needs to be. God will take care of the rest.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus - September 22, 2014

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Living Translation)
22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

We are often faced with the trials and storms of life, and most of us try to make do things ourselves. We struggle against the "heavy waves" of life and our spirits take quite a pounding as we stubbornly go our own way. Usually the harder we try the more difficult the challenges become, until we find ourselves crying out for help.

The story of Jesus walking on water demonstrates a few things to us. First we see where Jesus sends his disciples ahead, while he stays behind to pray. I believe that Jesus sent them out by themselves to test them He allows a storm to come up to see what they would do. Notice that in the midst of the storm, when they see Jesus walking on the water towards them, they were slow to recognize him. In fact they looked first for an impossible explanation rather than to think that Jesus was capable of this action.

Next we see that Jesus is quick to alleviate their fear, by telling them not to be afraid. Then in a step of faith, Peter steps out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. But instead of focusing on Jesus, Peter lets the storm around him get the better of him and he begins to sink. Jesus as the eternal Savior reaches out to help him, but he is disappointed that Peter's faith is not strong enough to believe that he could do the impossible.

We like Peter are often limited in how we overcome the difficulties of life, because we will not totally surrender to Jesus, and in deep faith know that He will help us do the impossible. We would rather try to do it on our own. My call to you is this, you need to grow your faith to the point that you are completely committed to the Savior. You need to be confident that in everything, Jesus will help you through. Most of all, we need to never give up our faith when the "wind and waves" beat down on us. Instead we need to strengthen our faith even more, and be assured that God will help us through to "calm waters".

Are you facing a storm in your life right now? Reach out to Jesus and ask him to save you. He will take you by the hand, lift you into the boat and take you to safety. Figurative as this might seem, if you truly believe you will overcome the storm.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Praise! - September 21, 2014

Psalm 42(New International Version)
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night, while people say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

6 My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon —from Mount Mizar.

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.

9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”

10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Trapped! - September 20, 2014

James 1:13-15(New International Version)
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

We all have an inborn problem, which is the problem of giving in to temptation. Whether it is wrath, greed, laziness, pride, lust, envy, or gluttony, all of us have the problem of giving in to these vices. Why is that?

I believe that the temptations are all around us, on display day in and day out. The media today does a great job of shoving it in our faces; whether on television, or in magazines, or on billboards, it is designed to lure us in and trap us. And, because of our fallen nature, and the evil one's hate for us, we are very susceptible to getting trapped.

Some people have erected a strong defense against temptation by knowing their weaknesses, and seeking God's help for strength. Others tend to remain weak because they don't seek God nearly enough. Thank God that He loved us enough, to provide the way out of what has us trapped.

By the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross, we have the means of release from the traps that can lead to death. Jesus has overcome our sin and has redeemed us; it is our responsibility to accept God's gift, and once we are released, to avoid falling back into the trap.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hyper-Critical People - September 19, 2014

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 judgmental 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?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

On That Day - September 18, 2014

Isaiah 2:2-5 (New International Reader's Version)

2 In the last days
the mountain where the Lord's temple is located will be famous.
It will be the most important mountain of all.
It will stand out above the hills.
All of the nations will go to it.

3 People from many nations will go there. They will say,

"Come. Let us go up to the Lord's mountain.
Let's go to the house of Jacob's God.
He will teach us how we should live.
Then we will live the way he wants us to."
The law of the Lord will be taught at Zion.
His message will go out from Jerusalem.

4 He will judge between the nations.
He'll settle problems among many of them.
They will hammer their swords into plows.
They'll hammer their spears into pruning tools.
Nations will not go to war against one another.
They won't even train to fight anymore.

5 People of Jacob, come.
Let us live the way the Lord has taught us to.

The world is a very troubled place these days. Although we hear mainly about the unrest in the Middle East, and the rumblings of trouble in our own country, there is much more going on than we even know.

Earthquakes, plagues, hunger, murder, war, all of these things go on somewhere on the earth every minute of the day on our planet. It is difficult to know how we fit into the scheme of things. Each day we wake up to one more overwhelming incident after another, and it is enough to cause fear for ourselves and for those we love around us.

That said, God expects us to be His "light among the nations", to be that representative of His hope in this very troubled world. Not that we are expected to do something global for the Kingdom of God, but in our own little world that God has given us stewardship over, we must do our part.
We must fearlessly and boldly move forward towards the goal He has set before us.

It is not mere coincidence that you are doing what you do, in the place in which you are, at the time in which you find yourself. It is not by your own efforts that you are a believer in Jesus Christ, and if you are not, it is not by chance that He is drawing you to Him this very minute.

There will be a day when God will make all things right again. On that day, He will bring about justice and peace, and those who chose to turn their backs on Him will be dealt with. As for now, we are to "live the way he wants us to".

Photo "Up in the Mountains" by rolve, 7-8-2009, from stock.xchng

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Salvation "Cliff Notes" - September 17, 2014

Ephesians 2:1-10(New Living Translation)
1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

8 God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. 9 Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Okay, here it is. No mumbo jumbo, no colorful rhetoric, just the facts. Here in a few verses is the entirety of salvation; the "Cliff Notes" of what happened that saved you from eternal damnation. It is a truth that is so simple that even the illustration of it is simple. The fact is that there is nothing that mankind can do to be saved; only God could have done it for us. Then why is it so hard for people to believe?

Here we are living in a world, that would rather deny the truth of Jesus Christ than to accept a simple message and simple path to being saved from our sinful selves. Why is it easier for us to hide or deny our sin than it is to accept God's message? There are even faiths that call themselves "Christian" that still cannot accept the truth of the message above? They would rather teach that you can be accepted by God for stuff you do, than to accept the truth that He did it for us.

Isn't it time you believed the message that God is trying to give you as a free gift?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blessed are You, Lord! - September 16, 2014

1 Chronicles 29:10-13(New King James Version)

10 Therefore David blessed the LORD before all the assembly; and David said:

“ Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.
11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O LORD,
And You are exalted as head over all.

12 Both riches and honor come from You,
And You reign over all.
In Your hand is power and might;
In Your hand it is to make great
And to give strength to all.

13 “Now therefore, our God,
We thank You
And praise Your glorious name.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Giving Our Best - September 15, 2014

2 Peter 1:3-7 (New International Reader's Version)
3 God's power has given us everything we need to lead a godly life. All of that has come to us because we know the One who chose us. He chose us because of his own glory and goodness.

4 He has also given us his very great and valuable promises. He did it so you could share in his nature. He also did it so you could escape from the evil in the world. That evil is caused by sinful longings.

5 So you should try very hard to add goodness to your faith. To goodness, add knowledge. 6 To knowledge, add the ability to control yourselves. To the ability to control yourselves, add the strength to keep going. To the strength to keep going, add godliness. 7 To godliness, add kindness to believers. And to kindness to believers, add love.

As a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, we should be continually be giving our best in gratitude for what He has done for us. What is giving our best? The second letter attributed to the apostle and eye-witness of Jesus's earthly presence, Peter, touches on this in verses 5-7.

Our best is offered in how we live out our faith in Jesus Christ, and this is lived out in our goodness to others, our hunger to know God more, how we control our earthly desires, our endurance in the face of difficulty and persecution, our behavior and character before God, in how we treat fellow believers we serve with, and most importantly how we demonstrate love to all.

I have found that in times of trial and distress, the closer I get to Him, the more confident I am in the future. And the more confident I am in the future with God's help, the more I am able to serve others for Him. I have resolved to listen more to His voice in my heart, to turn from doing things my own way, and to follow His leading in all things. I have learned that in the race called life, I need to always try and give God my best.

Photo of Olympic and world champion Jeremy Wariner, by Gene Cherry,Eugene, OR, July 5, 2008 - Reuters

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Soaring Over Life's Difficulties - September 14, 2014

Isaiah 40:28-31(GOD’S WORD Translation)
28Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard?
The eternal God, the Lord,
the Creator of the ends of the earth,
doesn’t grow tired or become weary.
His understanding is beyond reach.

29He gives strength to those who grow tired
and increases the strength of those who are weak.
30Even young people grow tired and become weary,
and young men will stumble and fall.

31Yet, the strength of those who wait
with hope in the Lord will be renewed.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
They will run and won’t become weary.
They will walk and won’t grow tired.

Watch an eagle in flight as it soars upon the thermals and it looks effortless. The eagle just soars and glides and rarely flaps its wings except to lift itself onto another thermal. It can do this for long periods of time without growing tired. It is a beautiful thing to watch.

The prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, likened walking with the Lord as "soaring on wings like eagles". When we choose to follow Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our lives, our living in this present age can become somewhat effortless as well. Not that we do not encounter difficulty, but God gives us the strength to rise above our circumstances.

We need to place our hope in the Lord in all that we do, and wait on Him to take care of all our difficulties. When we do, we will obtain the endurance to weather whatever we are confronted with, and truly "soar like an eagle".

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Our "All-Powerful" God - September 13, 2014

Isaiah 6:1-5(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. 2 Heavenly creatures of fire stood above him. Each creature had six wings: It used two wings to cover its face, two wings to cover its feet, and two wings for flying.

3 Each creature was calling to the others:

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord All-Powerful. His glory fills the whole earth."

4 Their calling caused the frame around the door to shake, as the Temple filled with smoke.

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."

Have you ever imagined the God that you serve, and if you don't serve Him, have you ever imagined what God is really like? I believe that in our complacency and pride, we have forgotten how truly "All-Powerful" God really is. We have become so self-absorbed by our own efforts, that we rarely think about who God is.

Our world has become so arrogant at times that we casually use His name to even curse people, and because of our "high towers" and wealth, we seldom give Him the credit for any what He has blessed us with. One need only travel throughout many parts of our Nation, to see how we have turned our backs and ridicule anything He stands for. We think that we can make it without Him around, but it is interesting how often we call on Him when times get tough.

Imagine for a moment that you are the prophet Isaiah; God has allowed you to have just a glimpse of Him, because He wants you to speak for Him. None of the television preacher stuff, but really speak the words He gives you. You see Him on His throne in Heaven, surrounded by the angelic forces, and the vision scares you so badly that you feel like your going to die.

At that very moment, you realize how you have lived your life, and how it hasn't been up to God's standards, and you shake for fear that He might vaporize you. It is as if you are in the middle of a terrific thunderstorm and earthquake at the same time. You realize that you and all who have ever been associated with you are doomed, because He is so Holy and you are so Unholy that you would disintegrate if it where not for His mercy.

Now that is how we need to see God, and at the same time we need to see just how merciful He is that even though we are the way we are, He loves us. How much? Enough to come to earth and step into our flesh as Jesus Christ and into our shoes, and want to get to know us. Better yet, because of His grace, He does what is necessary to make us Holy, just by believing in Jesus. We no longer have to fear Him.

Have you ever imagined the God that you serve? Maybe it's time you did.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Paradise Restored - September 12, 2014

Isaiah 65:17-25 (New International Version)
17 "Behold, I will create
new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered,
nor will they come to mind.

18 But be glad and rejoice forever
in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight
and its people a joy.

19 I will rejoice over Jerusalem
and take delight in my people;
the sound of weeping and of crying
will be heard in it no more.

20 "Never again will there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not live out his years;
he who dies at a hundred
will be thought a mere youth;
he who fails to reach a hundred
will be considered accursed.

21 They will build houses and dwell in them;
they will plant vineyards and eat their fruit.

22 No longer will they build houses and others live in them,
or plant and others eat.
For as the days of a tree,
so will be the days of my people;
my chosen ones will long enjoy
the works of their hands.

23 They will not toil in vain
or bear children doomed to misfortune;
for they will be a people blessed by the LORD,
they and their descendants with them.

24 Before they call I will answer;
while they are still speaking I will hear.

25 The wolf and the lamb will feed together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox,
but dust will be the serpent's food.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,"
says the LORD.

When you consider what the future time will be like, you need only study references in the bible to how things will be. As much as we want to believe that we are in control of our own destiny, we really have no clue how things will really be in the future.

Someday everything will be made new, and as the Bible says, the old things will be remembered no more. God will remake the earth to be the paradise he originally intended. Before the fall of man, God created a perfect world and populated it with every creature imaginable. He then place mankind in the garden to tend it and dwell with God.

We will one day join our God in the new paradise, spending our time in worship and praise to the One who made it possible for us to be with Him once again and forevermore. Painting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, by Wenzel Peter, c 1800

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Are You Bless - able? - September 11, 2014

Psalm 119:1-8(New International Version)
1 Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,
who walk according to the law of the LORD.

2 Blessed are those who keep his statutes
and seek him with all their heart—
3 they do no wrong
but follow 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.

There is a word that gets thrown around a lot among Christians, and that is the word "blessed". It is used for almost everything that someone gets, but sometimes it people get a little cavalier about it. What does it mean to be "blessed"? It is the tangible favor of God; as the Bible tells us in James 1:17(NIV)"Every good and perfect gift is from above". He is the One who gives us whatever "blessings" we receive. It really isn't something we truly do on our own.

Then the question comes up, "What is a blessing?" To many people in the world it is something material, or a lucky break, or something earned. Yes, that can be a "blessing" too, but what ultimately matters is whether or not we are living in God's will when we receive it. I believe that true "blessings" are long lasting; it's the gift that keeps on giving.

It's God's favor being "poured out" when we are within in His will, and you can feel it in your spirit. For instance, how do you feel when you do something good for other people, and you make it known that you are doing it because of your relationship with Jesus? I know that you feel really good, because that is what I have experienced. To top it off, you not only receive the "blessing" from your actions here and know, but you store them up for the future with God as well. That to me is a true blessing.

Yes, God can give you things, things that are tangible, and yes, you can call those "blessings", but usually those do not last very long. I don't think that God will be checking our checking accounts when we get to heaven. So what must we do to receive such "blessings"?

- First, we must be "bless-able", able to receive what God desires to give us by being aligned with His will for our lives. That means throwing off any barrier to God's goodness, such as sin in our lives or ill-will towards another, and making ourselves available to His leading.

- Next, we must listen to God and obey His instruction, follow those leadings of the Holy Spirit that move us to doing things for others.

- Then we need to be open to receiving God's blessing, and be sure to offer Him praise and thanksgiving for what we receive.

God loves to bless those He loves; all we need to do is to be sure that we are "Bless-able"!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Our CNN/BBC World - September 10, 2014

2 Peter 3:3-7 (New International Reader's Version)
3 First of all, here is what you must understand. In the last days people will make fun of the truth. They will laugh at it. They will follow their own evil longings.

4 They will say, "Where is this 'return' he promised? Everything goes on in the same way it has since our people of long ago died. In fact, it has continued that way since God first created everything."

5 Long ago, God's word brought the heavens into being. His word separated the earth from the waters. And the waters surrounded it. But those people forget things like that on purpose. 6 The waters also flooded the world of that time. It was destroyed.

7 By God's word the heavens and earth of today are being reserved for fire. They are being kept for the day when God will judge. Then ungodly people will be destroyed.

On any given day, you can hear about things about the daily lives of the inhabitants of our modern world. We live in a "CNN/BBC World", where minute by minute we can see the whatever is happening on this planet. People going about their lives, going to work or school, on vacation or play; those being born or those who have died, the good and the bad; we can see everything, anywhere, anytime.

The world goes on, day after day, totally oblivious to the fact that for all of us, our days are numbered. Our frenetic pace of life blurs the fact that there needs to be more than the daily march toward the end. But by the looks of those who report to us what is happening or happened, it is all smiles and laughs, and lines of script. To those hustling and bustling about their day, it is just another day, another dollar.

There are times when an event stills our pace and causes us to pause. There are those situations where we slow down to briefly stop and think about what is actually going on, but soon the trials of life, the needs of the moment, overshadow that brief moment and we are flung right back into the tempo of life. Once again unconcerned about anything but the trials of our everyday lives; an unspoken story on the evening news.

For many the thought of eternity, the thought of our own demise is a long long time in the future, and why worry about it? Were all good and much better than the next guy! Surely God will understand why we do what we do! Why be concerned? People have been talking about you better do this or that for years, and everything is pretty much the same as it has always been. So we get up and go about our daily business, and we let the future worry about itself.

In our CNN/BBC world, there really are many cultures, and many different people, and many ways of doing everything; many ways to God and many ways to show for it. Its day here and night over there; people having fun here and hurting each other there. There is no right or wrong only what you feel is right for you. Be careful though or you'll make the evening news!

So what am I trying to say about our world today? Its really not what I have to say, but it is what would God say if He were to show up today, in our CNN/BBC world?

Photo "Times Square" by Guikkiko, 7-1-2005 from stock.xchng

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Can't Take It With You! - September 9, 2014

Psalm 49:16-17 (New International Version, ©2011)
16 Do not be overawed when others grow rich, when the splendor of their houses increases;17 for they will take nothing with them when they die, their splendor will not descend with them.

1 Timothy 6:7 (New International Version, ©2011)
7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.

You have heard it said that, "You don't see a U-Haul behind a hearse". How true that is. When we die, everything earthly thing we have will be left behind. This points to the foolishness of accumulating houses and cars, and anything else we try so hard to earn in life. The verses from the psalm above makes it clear that we shouldn't even be impressed by the worldly goods of others, because they will all be left behind as well.

Our focus needs to be on what we do of eternal value. First, we need to accept Jesus Christ and make sure of our future address. Next, we need to take advantage of every good work that God directs us to do. Then we need to live lives obedient to what God has required of us in His word. Finally, we need to make sure our life focus is on sharing with everyone around us what we ourselves have learned about eternity.

Serve God, not man and make sure that your investments are in the right place.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Wicked vs. The Godly - September 08, 2014

Psalm 37 (New Living Translation)
1 Don’t worry about the wicked
or envy those who do wrong.
2 For like grass, they soon fade away.
Like spring flowers, they soon wither.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.

5 Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
6 He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

7 Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.
Don’t worry about evil people who prosper
or fret about their wicked schemes.

8 Stop being angry!
Turn from your rage!
Do not lose your temper—
it only leads to harm.
9 For the wicked will be destroyed,
but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.

10 Soon the wicked will disappear.
Though you look for them, they will be gone.
11 The lowly will possess the land
and will live in peace and prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the godly;
they snarl at them in defiance.
13 But the Lord just laughs,
for he sees their day of judgment coming.

14 The wicked draw their swords
and string their bows
to kill the poor and the oppressed,
to slaughter those who do right.
15 But their swords will stab their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 It is better to be godly and have little
than to be evil and rich.
17 For the strength of the wicked will be shattered,
but the Lord takes care of the godly.

18 Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent,
and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.
19 They will not be disgraced in hard times;
even in famine they will have more than enough.

20 But the wicked will die.
The Lord’s enemies are like flowers in a field—
they will disappear like smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and never repay,
but the godly are generous givers.
22 Those the Lord blesses will possess the land,
but those he curses will die.

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.

25 Once I was young, and now I am old.
Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned
or their children begging for bread.
26 The godly always give generous loans to others,
and their children are a blessing.

27 Turn from evil and do good,
and you will live in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves justice,
and he will never abandon the godly.

He will keep them safe forever,
but the children of the wicked will die.
29 The godly will possess the land
and will live there forever.

30 The godly offer good counsel;
they teach right from wrong.
31 They have made God’s law their own,
so they will never slip from his path.

32 The wicked wait in ambush for the godly,
looking for an excuse to kill them.
33 But the Lord will not let the wicked succeed
or let the godly be condemned when they are put on trial.

34 Put your hope in the Lord.
Travel steadily along his path.
He will honor you by giving you the land.
You will see the wicked destroyed.

35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people
flourishing like a tree in its native soil.
36 But when I looked again, they were gone!
Though I searched for them, I could not find them!

37 Look at those who are honest and good,
for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.
38 But the rebellious will be destroyed;
they have no future.

39 The Lord rescues the godly;
he is their fortress in times of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them,
rescuing them from the wicked.
He saves them,
and they find shelter in him.

As I was reading through this psalm of David, I tried to find a way to abbreviate it and post only a few of the verses, but the more I read about the godly versus the ungodly, the righteous versus the wicked, the more each verse stood out as one I should post in this evening's devotion. God makes it very clear to us what He will do for those who love Him and are focused on Him, versus those who don't.

Frustration abounds with what I see is going on in the world around us these days. Sometimes things seem rather hopeless, other times things make my blood boil, and in others I wish things could just be like they used to be. We need to always be encouraged, and we must remain hopeful, because what God says is true. If we will pick the path of the godly, He will truly saves us and ultimately shelter us from everything that comes against us.

Photo "Dawn Over New Zealand" from CityPictures.org

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday Praise! - September 7, 2014

Psalm 98 (New International Version)

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.

2 The LORD has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.

3 He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to the house of Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.

4 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;

5 make music to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,

6 with trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn—
shout for joy before the LORD, the King.

7 Let the sea resound, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.

8 Let the rivers clap their hands,
Let the mountains sing together for joy;

9 let them sing before the LORD,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

As you have enjoy a beautiful weekend and as you prepare for your new week, let us be mindful of God who has given us everything. Let us pause to give Him glory and praise. Have a great week!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Praise Amidst Failure - September 6, 2014

Habakkuk 3:17-19(New Living Translation)
17 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!

I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

How do you make it through times of difficulty? God has a reason and plan for everything we go through, because He has "walked in our shoes", Jesus Christ understands what we are going through. In knowing us so intimately through the Holy Spirit, He never abandons us if we will stay close to Him.

Yes, this can bring along with it a certain amount of comfort and confidence as we go through our trial, but what do you do if no matter what you do nothing gets better? How do you respond to God if all of your prayers remain unanswered? What do you do next to survive your calamity?

It is at that time, when all else has failed, that you surrender to God and give Him praise. In spite of all that happens to us while we are on this earth, the bottom line is that He has created us, and because of that He ultimately deserves our praise. Yes, life on this earth will not be fair, and inevitably we will feel left alone in our difficulty and pain. That doesn't mean that God does not care.

He does have the Master Plan for our life, and truth is that we may never know what the outcome will be, but He does. In those times, give it all over to Him and praise Him. In spite of your circumstance, give Him praise. Even if you lose everything, give Him praise. Know that no matter what, you still have your salvation in Jesus Christ, and that is all that matters for eternity.

When you finally surrender it all, then He can really work in your life and give you the strength to make it through.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A Heart of Reconciliation - September 5, 2014

2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (New Living Translation)
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

Colossians 1:19-20 (New King James Version)
19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

Christianity involves Christ's work of reconciliation between us and God. Through the sacrificial death of Jesus, through the shedding of His blood as payment for sins on our behalf, our relationship with God has been re-established. When we believe and accept this, we are restored to friendship with God. As Jesus Christ said, "I do not call you servants anymore. Servants do not know their master's business. Instead, I have called you friends. I have told you everything I learned from my Father." John 15:15(NIRV)

Since we have been given this gift of reconciliation through Jesus Christ, it is our responsibility to seek reconciliation in all things. It is our mission to be God's ambassadors, sharing Christ and helping to bring into harmony all of those who are separated from God. As Christians we do nothing in our own power, but the Holy Spirit brings about the reconciliation as a new believer surrenders to Jesus Christ. Our job is to represent what has already been done for us; we are to reflect God's work of reconciliation.

We are to seek reconciliation in all things, always striving for restoring Christ-like relationships with everyone we encounter. There is nothing more important than for us as Christians to reflect Jesus Christ, as we reach out in the present and to those damaged relationships in our past. This might mean stepping aside accepting correction that we felt was misplaced, or subordinating ourselves to a co-worker that has taken our positions. It might mean re-engaging with alienated family members, extending forgiveness to those who have betrayed us, or humbling ourselves to those who have taken advantage of us. In all of these acts, we become God's ambassadors of reconciliation, and help to promote the healing and restoration that God desires.

As you enter into the grind of this new year, make it a point to follow what Jesus Christ has begum on our behalf. Make it a point in this year to seek reconciliation in all things and with all people. Be sure that this year is the one that heals old wounds and restores broken relationships. Make sure that this year will be the year that you discover the work of Christ and the true heart of God; make sure you discover what reconciliation is all about.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Whole Story - September 4, 2014

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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Enduring "Sifting" - September 3, 2014

Luke 22:31-32(New Century Version)
31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to test all of you as a farmer sifts his wheat. 32 I have prayed that you will not lose your faith! Help your brothers be stronger when you come back to me."

If you are the baker in the family you are very familiar with sifting flour. Sifting is defined as "To put (flour, for example) through a sieve or other straining device in order to separate the fine from the coarse particles"*. It is a way to remove impurities from what your mixing so that whatever you are baking has the perfect texture. If you love baked goods like me, you really like the outcome of this step in the process.

Jesus used the example of sifting wheat, when the disciples were gathered in the upper room just before Christ's crucifixion. He had just completed sharing the Passover meal and using it to establish His new covenant that we call "Holy Communion". The disciples were arguing about who would be the greatest in God's kingdom, and Jesus was growing very weary of the argument. Even though Jesus had tried to tell them numerous times, none of them really had a clue what was about to happen.

Peter being the leader among them, and probably the one with the largest ego in the group, was about to have his ego leveled and his true character tested, and Jesus was giving this very arrogant man a warning. God was about to allow Satan to put him through his most important testing of his life, and Jesus was praying that he would withstand that test. Peter was about to under go "sifting" that would remove the coarseness and shallowness within him, and purify him in a manner that would develop him for future leadership of the new Christian church. If he made it through this testing, then he would be able to handle the opposition after the departure of Jesus Christ.

Here lately, I have often felt that I have been going through a lot of sifting, and the way things are in the world, I am sure that there are many of you going through the same thing. I hate to let everyone know, but this is a time that God is developing our characters, preparing us for tougher times in the years ahead. The great thing about trials and difficulties is that after you go through enough of it, you resign yourself to not thinking that you can do it all; you learn that the only way to make it is with God's help.

If life has you being pressed through the sifter right now, make sure that you are staying close to Jesus. If you aren't, don't worry, your time will come. Remember though, Jesus will be with you to comfort you, and He will strengthen you through the process.

* Definition from the Free Online Dictionary/sift

Photo from "Mule Team on the Move", Muhlestein Family adventures and travels, posted 6-10-2011

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Truely Satisfied - September 2, 2014

Psalm 49(New Living Translation)
1 Listen to this, all you people!
Pay attention, everyone in the world!
2 High and low,
rich and poor—listen!
3 For my words are wise,
and my thoughts are filled with insight.
4 I listen carefully to many proverbs
and solve riddles with inspiration from a harp.
5 Why should I fear when trouble comes,
when enemies surround me?
6 They trust in their wealth
and boast of great riches.
7 Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death
by paying a ransom to God.
8 Redemption does not come so easily,
for no one can ever pay enough
9 to live forever
and never see the grave.

10 Those who are wise must finally die,
just like the foolish and senseless,
leaving all their wealth behind.
11 The grave is their eternal home,
where they will stay forever.
They may name their estates after themselves,
12 but their fame will not last.
They will die, just like animals.
13 This is the fate of fools,
though they are remembered as being wise.


14 Like sheep, they are led to the grave,
where death will be their shepherd.
In the morning the godly will rule over them.
Their bodies will rot in the grave,
far from their grand estates.
15 But as for me, God will redeem my life.
He will snatch me from the power of the grave.


16 So don’t be dismayed when the wicked grow rich
and their homes become ever more splendid.
17 For when they die, they take nothing with them.
Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.
18 In this life they consider themselves fortunate
and are applauded for their success.
19 But they will die like all before them
and never again see the light of day.
20 People who boast of their wealth don’t understand;
they will die, just like animals.

Do you long after the riches of this world? Are your pursuits after those things that money buys? Is your first aim in life to do all you can to obtain wealth? Do you believe that in doing those things you will have satisfaction? Has God been relegated to a small corner of your life as you pursue after these things? Do we hunger more for power, wealth and riches than for the love and satisfaction found only in God?

Many times in God's word we are warned against worldly pursuits. We are told that by doing so we can never find satisfaction and happiness. Any of us who have spent a little time on this planet knows that this is true. No matter how much we seek after the world and its riches, there is never enough and we can never be satisfied. In God's economy, worldly wealth is fleeting and soon fades away, but He gives us supernatural wealth in Jesus that can sustain and satisfy us for eternity.

Only by seeking God first and foremost in our lives can we ever be truly satisfied, and He tells us as long as we put Him first, He will take care of everything else we need. Only in Him can we be rescued from the world and given satisfaction that lasts.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Desert Times - September 1, 2014

Psalm 63:1-5(New Living Translation)
1 O God, you are my God;
I earnestly search for you.
My soul thirsts for you;
my whole body longs for you
in this parched and weary land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in your sanctuary
and gazed upon your power and glory.
3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself;
how I praise you!

4 I will praise you as long as I live,
lifting up my hands to you in prayer.
5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
I will praise you with songs of joy.

There are times in our lives when God seems absent from our day to day lives. You seek Him in prayer, yet it is difficult to find Him. You lift up your concerns, yet the answers don't come. You grow weary as you cry for help, only to feel more disappointment as it fails to come. You wonder what is going on? What did you do? Why hasn't He rescued you?

David had very much the same thoughts as he was fleeing from his enemies. Here was a man that it was said, "was a man after God's own heart", yet he too had many "desert" experiences. He too longed for rescue from his difficult circumstances. If you study the Psalms, you will find many times when he lifted up prayers to God, wondering why God has abandoned him, and wondering when God would free him from his troubles.

It's at these times when our faith needs to lift us up. It is our faith in the truth that we know which will sustain us. You know that God is on His throne, in His sanctuary, and He knows what you are going through. It is at these desert times in your life, when you need to give Him praise. You know what He has done for you in the past, and it is in that knowledge that you must give Him praise for what He has yet to do for you.

Nothing that you go through is wasted. God does have a purpose, and He has promised that He will never leave to forsake you. He will never turn away or abandon you. It is up to you to rest in the promise that He will turn your difficulties into joy. It may not be on our timetable, but our history with trusting Him should give us the confidence that it will end for our benefit in mind.

The Wood Carver - August 31, 2014

Psalm 138:8 (English Standard Version)
8The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Psalm 138:8 (New International Reader's Version)
8 Lord, you will do everything you have planned for me.
Lord, your faithful love continues forever.
You have done so much for us. Don't stop now.

When a wood carver looks to carve a piece of art, he goes through a number of steps to create a piece of art that can be enjoyed. First he visualizes in his imagination what he wants to carve. Then he usually will draw our what he has in mind. He selects a piece of wood that will fit the project, and then he begins. During the carving, he will often look at his drawing, but along the way, he will usually count on his mental image as he guides the chisel.

Sooner or later he will just let his mind and hands take over, and allows the inspiration within, carve out what he has envisioned. Many times he will move around the object, taking off the rough pieces of wood, bit by bit. Only when he is finished can he stand back and admire what he has done, and have the satisfaction that he has created a thing of beauty.

In speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”Jeremiah 1:5(NIV)God had a place and a time that he would be born, and a specific task that Jeremiah would do. He was made to fulfill God's purposes, and the words penned by prophet still speak to God's people over 2600 years later, testifying to the reason why every unborn life is precious.

God had a vision for what he wanted you to be and what He wanted you to do. He has envisioned that all He has created would fulfill His divine will, and accomplish God's purposes. Just as a wood carver first envisions his work, God knew the beautiful work of art that you would be. The Bible tells us in Philippians 1:6,"that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus". God has a plan to finish the work that He has started in you.

Perhaps something you will do, or write, or a child that you will have or inspire, will have an amazing spiritual impact for God many centuries from now. The only way is if you are obedient to His call, and you listen to His direction, and one day you will stand before Him, and He will admire that He has truly created a person of beauty.

Photo from Popular Mechanics Instructables website "Wood Chiseling"