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Friday, August 31, 2012

God's Grace

Titus 2:11 (New International Version)
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.

In the late 1800's at the North Orange Baptist Church in Orange, New Jersey, an interesting thing happened one Sunday. It was the church where the great American businessman Samuel Colgate was a member. During an evangelistic campaign a prostitute came forward and confessed her sins. She was broken-hearted and wept openly. She asked God to save her soul and expressed a desire to join the church. "I'll gladly sit in some back corner," she said. The preacher hesitated to call for a motion to accept her into membership, and for a few moments the silence was oppressive. Finally, a member stood up and suggested that action on her request be postponed. At that point, Mr. Colgate arose in her defense and said with an undertone of sarcasm, "I guess we blundered when we prayed that the Lord would save sinners. We forgot to specify WHAT KIND. We'd better ask Him to forgive us for this oversight. The Holy Spirit has touched this woman and made her truly repentant, but apparently the Lord doesn't understand she isn't the type we want Him to rescue." Many in the congregation blushed with shame. Another motion was made and the woman was unanimously received into the fellowship.

The grace of God brings salvation to all who receive Jesus Christ. Are you showing partiality against someone who has sinned a particular sin?

Just remember your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God's grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God's grace.

Dear Lord thank for your grace. We thank You for forgiving us and we  pray that we would forgive as You have forgiven us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dirty Rags

Isaiah 64:6 (New International Version)
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf,     and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Like most children, Timmy was an adventurous six-year-old. Some would say he continuously expressed himself in somewhat of an artistic fashion. Translation: Timmy constantly drew on the walls with anything he could get his hands on. Crayons were his choice of expression; owning the biggest box that Crayola made helped arm him with a seemingly endless supply of colors that more than adequately covered each wall up to four feet from the floor. In a diversity of colors like Magenta, Outrageous Orange, and Robin’s Egg Blue, he created people, animals, choo-choo trains, space-ships, and a thousand other things his imagination would bring to life.

Not knowing what to do, Timmy’s father bought him a charcoal sketch kit complete with a sketch pad and various shades of charcoal sketching briquettes. Now if you are anything like me, you’re thinking maybe this was not a very good idea, but after several long talks about not drawing on the walls, Timmy’s father convinced him to instead use the sketch pads. And it worked. Timmy began using the sketch pads and charcoal briquettes to create wonderful works of art. He began drawing portraits of family members and neighbors, and everyone was amazed at the accurate likenesses he had produced.

His now happy parents hired a crew of men to come in and repaint all the walls. It took them nearly a week, but the end result was beautiful. His parents were elated. As a matter of fact, Timmy’s mother had, after all, been wishing for the walls to be freshly painted long before the crayons had ever touched them.

The proud parents then began hanging their son’s works of art all over the house. The refrigerator doors were covered with sketch-pad drawings held by fruit-shaped magnets. In the living room, many of his finer works were framed and hung on the same walls he had once desecrated. One whole wall in the den was completely covered from top to bottom with sketch-pad pages, and if I am not mistaken, the opposite wall in the same room had a few as well.

Timmy enjoyed the sketch pad and charcoal briquettes, but he did miss drawing on the walls. He knew he was not allowed to do it, but he couldn’t quite contain himself. With a few darker colored Crayons, Timmy began drawing on the dining-room walls. The dark shades formed fish, firemen, army tanks and several other items stretching upward as far as his arms would reach.

As he looked at his drawings, he became overwhelmed with guilt. He decided to try to wash the evidence from the walls so his parents would not be able to see them, but the only towel he could find was the one he used when sketching with the charcoal briquettes. He used this towel to wipe his hands clean from the messy charcoal, so the rag was filthy, and when used on the walls only made them worse. Now the walls were covered with Crayon drawings and dark charcoal smears.

So often we find ourself in the same situation. We try to cleanse the filthy walls of our sins by our own supposedly righteous efforts, but only make them filthier. As we are reminded in our verse today.  When will we learn that only God can do the job? For He alone can cleanse the filthy walls of our sins, even those made filthier by our self-righteous efforts to cleanse them without His aid. Better still, He can cleanse the filthy rags of our self-righteousness as well, transforming them into gleaming spotless cloths of holiness.

Dear Lord we thank You that You are there to wipe away all our unrighteousness. And when You do we are spotless. Help us today not to try and do it on our own with our dirty rags. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Forgiving Debt

Colossians 2:13-14 (New International Version)
13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

On March 25, 1999, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced the Canadian Debt Initiative. The initiative was to forgive 100 percent of debt owed by heavily indebted poor countries to Canada. In December of that year, Bangladesh became the first recipient of that initiative. Canada forgave Bangladesh of some $600,000 (Canadian). "Canceling Bangladesh's debt to Canada will provide a financial and moral boost to Bangladesh's poverty reduction efforts," said Canadian Finance Minister Paul Martin.

Canada's Minister for International Co-operation Maria Minna agreed. "Nearly half of the people of Bangladesh suffer from a lack of food, shelter, health or education facilities," she said. "Providing more resources to poverty reduction is one of the keys to future prosperity in Bangladesh. By forgiving Bangladesh's debt, we are helping that country focus on improving the quality of life of its people." Instead of having to service debt, Bangladesh country can use the money for education and health. Madagascar, Tanzania, Honduras, and Zambia are countries Canada is considering for future debt relief for a total of about $50 million forgiven.

God has a much larger plan for canceling the debt of sin. It is in the person of Jesus Christ, who paid for that debt on the Cross. Have you accepted Christ's forgiveness for your debt of sin? Today in prayer, thank the Lord for forgiving you. Then forgive others just as Christ has forgiven you.

Dear Lord we thank You for what You did to cancel our debt that we owed because of our sin. Help us always be thankful for that forgiveness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Adolph Coors IV and Forgiveness

Colossians 3:13 (New International Version)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

On February 9, 1960, Adolf Coors III was kidnapped and held for ransom. Seven months later his body was found on a remote hillside. Adolf Coors IV, then fifteen years old, lost both his father and best friend. For years young Coors hated Joseph Corbett, the man who was sentenced for the slaying. Then in 1975 Adolf Coors became a Christian. While he divested himself of his interest in the family beer business, he could not rid himself of the hatred that consumed him. He prayed to God for help because he realized how his hatred for Corbett was alienating him from God and others. Then one day, claiming the Spirit's presence, Coors visited Colorado's Canon City penitentiary and tried to talk with Corbett. Corbett refused to see him. Coors left a Bible inscribed with this message: "I'm here to see you today and I'm sorry that we could not meet. As a Christian I am summoned by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to forgive. I do forgive you, and I ask you to forgive me for the hatred I've held in my heart for you." Later Coors confessed, "I have a love for that man that only Jesus Christ could have put in my heart."

Every man, woman and child needs forgiveness from others and forgiveness from Christ. Are you harboring hate for another?

Dear Lord thank You for Your love and forgiveness. We pray that we would forgive others like You forgave us. In Jesus name, Amen.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Murder to Forgiven

Colossians 3:13 (New International Version)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

In 1969, Cindy Stevens was brutally murdered in Evansville, Indiana. Her father moved the family from Evansville to a new home near Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Because of a court error, Cindy's killer was released after seven years behind bars. Paul's hatred twisted his psyche. " At that time I wanted to see that man dead," he said.

In 1978, nine years after the murder, Paul tried something radical. At a religious retreat, he finally grasped that his hate couldn't restore his daughter. He started looking at how Jesus responded to hatred by calling us to turn the other cheek. He vowed to overcome the tragedy and devote his time to working with violent criminals.

Since that time, Stevens spent two days each week working as a counselor and lay minister at a maximum security prison. He came to call some of the 29 prisoners on death row his friends. Rita Brothers, a friend of Paul's, wrote: "An inspiration and a role model for me, I highly respected Paul Stevens because I actually witnessed him living out the Gospel call to work charity, justice and peace." Paul Stevens died in 2002, a man who had lost his hatred and was able to forgive others.

The Lord calls upon us to forgive others just as we have been forgiven by Him.

Dear Lord thank You for the freedom from our sins. Thank You for forgiving us. We pray that we would forgive others the same way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

One Giant Leap

Psalm 8:3-4 (King James Version)
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; 4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

As I heard the news of Neil Armstrong passing away I remembered as a 7 year old watching the moon landing at my grandma’s house.

ONE OF THE GREAT EVENTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY took place on July 20th, 1969, at exactly 4:17 P.M., EDT, when the Lunar Module "Eagle" landed on the surface of the moon. The Apollo 11 mission was the first manned mission to land on the moon. It was the 5th human spaceflight of Project Apollo and the 3rd human voyage to the moon.
The mission fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon by the end of the 1960s, which he expressed during a speech given before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961: "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth."

That goal was realized when at precisely 10:56 P.M., astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon. He was followed shortly by Buzz Aldrin. This was purported to be the most amazing achievement ever by mankind. And of course, Armstrong spoke his famous line "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

As we stop to remember Neil Armstrong and his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Let’s remember another leap that was even more amazing. God sent His Son, Jesus to walk on the earth. With that single leap He brought deliverance and hope for all mankind. At precisely the right time He leaped to our planet that all may live with Him forever.

Dear Lord we thank You for that day long ago that You made the leap and stepped on our Earth. We thank You for dying and raising from the dead for each one of us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Forgiven and Adopted

Matthew 9:2 (New International Version)
Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.

The novelist, A. J. Cronin, tells a story from his own experience as a doctor that catches the wonder of the gift of grace. Cronin was a friend of the Adams family who lived in the Connecticut suburbs. At the close of the Second World War, Mr. and Mrs. Adams decided to open their home to a little refugee boy from Italy with the outlandish name of Paul Piotrostanalsi.

The Adams had two daughters and a six-year old son named Sammy. Sammy and Paul became inseparable friends, but little Paul was a difficult child, and often disobeyed Mr. and Mrs. Adams. One day, little Paul went swimming in some contaminated water. He became very ill with a high fever, and the doctor suggested he sleep in an attic bedroom. But little Sammy missed his friend Paul so much that one night he crept up the attic stairs and into bed with Paul. Paul's contagious breath fell on Sammy's neck all night.

In the morning, Sammy, never a strong child, became deathly ill. Paul recovered his health, but Sammy died within three days. It was a terrible tragedy for the Adams family.

A year later Dr. Cronin decided to pay a call on the Adams family. But as he pulled into their driveway, he was amazed and then angry as he saw Paul, the refugee boy, working in the garden with Mr. Adams. He got out of his car and angrily approached Mr. Adams.

"What's this Paul Pio........whatever his name is, doing here after what he did to your family?"

Mr. Adams looked at the doctor and then said quietly, "Dr. Cronin, you won't have any more trouble with Paul's name. You see, he's Paul Adams now. We've adopted him."

God has more than forgiven us, He as adopted us. 

Dear Lord thank You for the forgiveness You have given to each of us. But more than that thank You for adopting us as Your children. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Follow God Not the Crowd

Exodus 23:2 (New International Version)
“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.

On October 3, 1950, the Communist North Koreans arrived on the small Korean island of Chunnam. Using bamboo clubs and spears, they savagely beat 2000 people to death.

Kim Joon-gon watched his father and his wife die. Kim himself was left for dead. But he survived, crawling off into the hills to hide. "I hated the Communist militia," says Kim. "But as I prayed in hiding for myself and for the liberation of Korea, the Lord visited me and gave me love, and a desire to forgive the enemies who had tortured and killed my family. He liberated me."

In time, the Communists who had killed his wife and father were arrested. Because it was wartime, the police chief had authority to execute without trial. But as the chief prepared to kill the men, Kim pleaded, 'Spare them. They were forced to kill.' The police chief showed great surprise. 'It was your family they killed! Why do you now ask for their lives?' Kim replied quietly, 'Because the Lord, whose I am and whom I serve, would have me show mercy to them.' The Communists were spared execution because of Kim's plea.

News of his action spread among other Communist supporters in the area. When Kim later ascended a mountain to preach to Communists hiding out, he was not killed. Many of the Communists became Christians, and when Kim finally left the island there was a flourishing church of 108 members.

Christ calls us to follow Him, not the crowd.

Dear Lord we thank You for your example of love and forgiveness. We pray that we would love and forgive just you’re your example. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Finding God’s Spouse for You

Proverbs 18:22 (New International Version)
He who finds a wife finds what is good
    and receives favor from the Lord.

As I celebrate our 27 Wedding Anniversary the Lord has laid upon my heart an important message to share with young people around the world.

Young men and ladies, may I bring this important message to your attention: Choose your spouse carefully, by prayerfully relying on God's Spirit for direction. While dating, keep your eyes wide open, for many proclaim to be Christians, but are not. Break it off if you see anything that bothers you, for it will haunt you for the rest of your life, and please do not believe that after marriage, you can win you mate to the Kingdom. Once you are married, however, close your eyes to any annoyances you will perceive!

Only if your marriage is based on the fear of the Lord (not wanting to hurt our loving Lord in any shape, form or fashion) will you end up growing closer to one another and closer to your Heavenly Father. Your joy will be so great that you will literally be dining at the top of the world!

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised." (Prov 31:30 NIV)

"The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down." (Prov 14:1 NIV)

Marriage can be like standing at the top of the world. If you marry a true, God-fearing spouse, each day that passes by will draw you closer to your spouse as well to your loving Father. Each day will be more exquisite than the one before. Oh sure, there will be some run-ins (Probably more than less!), but your love established on the Eternal One will lead you to learn to forgive and to start admiring the differences of your mate. Eventually you will be led, under God's guidance, to dine at the top of the world, where your love towards one another and towards God will be of more importance than the trivial differences that used to drive you apart.

Please be careful who you marry! Not all marriages end up at the top of the world, like mine did, as my wife is sure out-of-this-world! Some do end up in utter hell!

"Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife." (Prov 21:9 NIV)

It's not without purpose that the book of Proverbs ends by describing the virtues of a God-fearing wife. Please meditate over these words and depend on the One who can make this possible:

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.

"She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.

"In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers. She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

"If it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet. She makes coverings for her bed ; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

"Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

"She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.

"Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: "Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate." (Prov 31:10-31 NIV)

Needless fears can be avoided by depending on the One to lead you to such a person.

In whom will you trust?

Dear Lord I come before You today thanking You for the most amazing help mate that You have given to me. I pray that You will continue to be her, that You will lead and guide her in all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

God Can Use Us All, Will You Let Him Use You?

Ephesians 1:7-8 (The Message)
"Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we're a free people-free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free!"

I'm so thankful that God says, "You'll never measure up, so accept the gift of grace from One who did. It's the one key that will unlock heaven's door."

Have you ever wondered what would happen if certain Bible characters sent letters of application for ministry positions in a church? Would the search committee meeting sound something like this?

"Let's talk about this Adam."
"Well, he seems like a good man, but he takes bad directions from his wife. And you don't even want to know what he wears in the woods."

"How about Noah?"
"He's prone to taking on huge building projects without a permit. He's a pessimist too."

"What about Joseph?"
"Brags too much. Has a prison record. He's even been accused of adultery."

"And Moses?"
"Are you kidding? He's a lousy communicator. He stutters and stammers. He has a bad temper and has been known to hit things with a stick."
"So he's a golfer then?"

"What do you know about Job?"
"Well, he's loaded, so he won't need a salary. But he's pretty gloomy. He complains too much."

"David looks like he has promise."
"Yes, but his kids are out of control, and his wives are a handful. To make matters worse, he's a strong proponent of instrumental music in worship."

"Tell me about Solomon."
"Well, he has a good head on his shoulders, but he's got problems when it comes to building projects. It took him seven years to complete the temple and thirteen years to build his palace. I guess he was trying to please all those wives."

"What about Elijah?"
"No way. Prone to depression. Collapses under pressure. Spends too much time by himself in the wilderness."

"And Samson?"
"Hair's too long."

"Good runner, but he makes up big fish tales. Has been disobedient to God."

"Not a chance. Works for the IRS."

"What about this John the Baptist?"
"He sure doesn't dress like a Baptist. Strange diet. Makes the Pharisees mad."

"And Peter?"
"Bad temper. Curses sometimes. Claims to have visions."

"Powerful preacher and a good leader. But he's short on tact and has been known to preach all night. Puts people to sleep. Controversial on women's issues. He's single too."

"What about these others on the list?"

"Lazarus is dead."

"Zacchaeus is too short."

"Timothy is way too young."

"Methusaleh is too old."

"Sarah laughed too much."

"What about Judas?"

"Well, let's talk about him. He comes with good character references. Good connections. He's conservative, so he won't rock the boat. Handles money well. Maybe he's the one."

Aren't you glad God in His mercy chose to use the likes of these? They literally shaped the course of human history. And He will do it again through you.

Dear Lord we thank You for using each of these. We are so thankful that You look past each of their faults and look at their potential. We thank You that You can and will use each one of use if only we are willing. Help us be willing today. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Danger of a Grenade.

Ephesians 4:31(New International Version)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
Melvin McDonald served in the Canadian navy during World War II. There are certain mementos he values from that season of his life. It turns out that one of them created quite a ruckus at police headquarters in Winnipeg.

One Monday the 79-year-old McDonald and his wife showed up at the front desk. His opening line to the police officer who offered to assist him was, "I got a grenade." He wasn't making a threat, mind you – just stating a fact. With that he took a hand grenade out of a brown paper bag and gave it to the officer.

The shocked constable kept his head. He did, however, call the bomb squad immediately. Then things really started to happen. Most of the main floor of the Public Safety Building was evacuated, the fire department was put on alert, and the bomb squad showed up with all its sophisticated paraphernalia.

The grenade was still primed with explosive, and its fuse was intact. "I've had it in the house all these years," the veteran said. "I used to have it on a stand." His nephew had suggested it ought to be turned over to the police.

An embarrassed McDonald apologized for all the commotion he caused. It was only a keepsake from a training exercise in Scotland in the early 1940s.

It makes me think of the stuff some of us have kept around far too long -- things that still could do a lot of harm. We bear grudges from old offenses. The resentment lingers from months, years, or decades ago. There is bad blood between departments in your company, families in the neighborhood, or people who are members of your church. Maybe your heart is seething with anger.

If something isn't done to deactivate those feelings, there could be a major explosion. There will be casualties. A business could be ruined. A marriage might be destroyed. A church could die. Innocent souls will suffer for someone's folly.

In today’s verse the Apostle Paul wrote: "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Ephesians 4:31). It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why he gave that counsel. Explosions maim and kill!

You may need to call on God to handle some bad -- and potentially deadly -- feelings tormenting you. He can supply the balm of compassion and pardon.

Dear Lord we pray today that we would turn any explosive thing we have in our life over to You. We thank You with Your love and compassion that You can disarm it and bring peace to the situation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hidden Dangers

Matt 13:24-26 (New International Version)
"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared."

Along the European coastal community after World War II, there is a warning about the dangers of picking up objects in the dunes. Although the dunes had been thoroughly combed for explosive devises, every once in a while you will hear horrible stories about children who picked up what they thought was a toy, only to trigger a deadly explosion. As a result, there were signs posted everywhere warning of the danger, planted by the enemy hand, that potentially lurked in the quiet dunes.

Even today, landmine damages still occurs, especially in countries such as Colombia, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Angola, India, Cambodia and many others, for a total of 117 countries in all! In fact between 1999 and 2010, more than 82,000 people have been killed or incapacitated by landmines!

The enemy is actively at work. Take, for example, the Khmer Rouge. In the mid-70s they took children as young as five and trained them to camouflage and set landmines in Cambodia.

The only purpose of these landmines is to bring devastation and discouragement among the people of certain countries. Not only do they kill and maim civilians and soldiers alike, they also cripple the livelihood of many farmers who can't earn income due to the fact that their fields have been mined.

We need to remember that the evil one is exactly the same. His purpose for our lives is "to steal and kill and destroy" (John 10:10), or in other words, to completely discourage us. He, too, has laid landmines, not in fields or lakes, but in the very core of the church itself.
What better way to discourage Christians than to sow seeds of discord among them! Some of these seeds specialize in promoting salvation by works, which will only lead to total disheartenment because we will never truly measure up. Others specialize in criticism or in Luke warmness, and other tools of discouragement. As a result, it is often our fellow-churchgoers who lead us to believe that we cannot be forgiven. If believers cannot encourage one another, what good is religion?

What we tend to forget, however, is that Christianity is not about religion. Instead, it's about us being in a relationship with our Maker and Savior! Jesus is the One who came to earth to save us, not the other way around. He is the One who paid the price so that we could experience real life, forgiveness and eternity with Him!

Sooner or later someone will notice: "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?" (Matt 13:27 NIV)

The answer is clear: "An enemy did this" (Matt 13:28 NIV)

Discouragement never comes from God, for our God is a God of love and encouragement: "You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry …" (Ps 10:17 NIV)

Naturally when we find out that the enemy is the source of strife among us, we will wonder: "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" (Matt 13:28 NIV)

God's answer though is clear: "'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" (Matt 13:29-30 NIV)

It's not for us to discern who is a child of God and who is not. This is not our worry. God will deal with these "weeds" among us. We are to shine like Jesus did, we are to love anyone around us, without exception, just like Jesus did: "Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34 NIV)

Dear Lord we pray that we wouldn’t let the mines that Satan plants discourage us. We pray that we would stand strong against the schemes of the devil. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Lessons From the Dandelions

1 John 1:9 (NASB)
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Aren't dandelions a bright pretty flower in the springtime? They tell us that spring has arrived. Children love bringing bouquets of them to their mothers, and mothers are delighted with the thoughtfulness of their children.

If left unattended, though, dandelions can cover the whole lawn and spread very quickly throughout the neighborhood via thousands of blown seeds. Once there was a lady that attacked her dandelion problem. Rather than use chemicals, she chose to dig out each root. Morning and night, she was out there digging and digging. It took her most of the summer to complete her task. The next spring, there were no dandelions to be seen in her yard. It was beautiful.

In our lives, sometimes sin creeps in -- like the dandelions in our yards. If left unattended, sin spreads -- like the dandelions. God is so willing to forgive us and get rid of the sin, if only we will confess our sin to Him. Will we sin again? Of course! Every time God reveals sin in our hearts to us, He is waiting to forgive us and cleanse us, to get rid of that sin. It is a life-long process -- just like my neighbor digging the dandelions from her lawn.

Dear Lord we pray that you will reveal to us the things in our hearts that make You sad. We do indeed want our hearts to be cleansed. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Climate of Forgiveness.

Colossians 3:13 (New International Version)
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

In his tape Living Faith (Random House Audio Books, 1996), President Jimmy Carter shares that forgiveness is fundamental to his life. He says that without the knowledge that he can be forgiven, it would be impossible for him to face his own shortcomings. This even includes forgiveness of himself.

He relates that both he and his wife, Rosalynn, are "strong-willed" persons who find it difficult to admit being at fault.

One day, after a particularly disturbing argument, Carter decided that he would never let another day end with each of them angry with the other. So he went out to his wood shop and cut a thin piece of walnut, a little smaller than a bank check. On it, he carved the words, "Each evening forever this is good for an apology or forgiveness, as you desire." That evening, he gave the plaque to Rosalynn. He reports that, so far, he has been able to honor it each time Rosalyn has presented it to him.

With his plaque, Carter created a climate of forgiveness between the two of them. Without the knowledge that we will be forgiven, how quickly will we admit our own faults? And how can our closest relationships be healthy if we are each afraid to apologize or unwilling to accept an apology? A climate of forgiveness is a necessary part of happiness.

Dear Lord we pray that we would have a forgiving heart today. Help us be the one to create a climate of forgiveness around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Forgiveness Equals Peace.

Mark 11:25 (New International Version)
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Photographer Nick Ut received a Pulitzer Prize for a dramatic war-time picture taken in Viet Nam. You may remember seeing it. The picture shows a little girl in agony walking naked down a country road amongst other weeping children. Dark smoke hangs heavily in the sky behind the fleeing group. The child's arms are painfully outstretched and her face is contorted in an expression of terror and misery. A Napalm bomb, dropped on her village, seared off the little girl's clothing and severely burned her skin.

The date is June 8, 1972. The child, Kim Phuc, was carried by Nick to a truck and transported to an area hospital. She cried over and over, "Non'g Qu'a. Non'g Qu'a," which means "Too hot! Too hot!"

Kim hovered between life and death. She required 17 different surgical operations and months of rehabilitation. Today, she lives in Canada and has become an important spokesperson on issues of peace. "Pain never disappears," Kim says. "You just learn how to deal with it."

In 1996 she was asked to say a few words at the Viet Nam War Memorial in Washington D.C. Kim talked about forgiving those people who were responsible for all the misery and suffering inflicted that tragic day. She said, "Even if I could talk face to face with the pilot who dropped the bombs, I would tell him we cannot change history but we should try to do good things for the present and for the future to promote peace." It was a message of forgiveness. She knew that her acts of reconciliation were the bricks that could pave the only true road to peace.

Kim could easily spend the rest of her life blaming others for her suffering. She could have grown up a bitter and resentful woman. Instead, she made a courageous choice - a choice for peace.

It's a choice none of us can escape.

Dear Lord we pray that we would be forgiving to those around us. We thank You that when we don't hold a grudge we can have peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

He Has Signed the Check.

1 Peter 2:24 (New International Version)
 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

A beggar stopped a lawyer on the street in a large southern city and asked him for a quarter. Taking a long, hard look into the man's unshaven face, the attorney asked, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" "You should," came the reply. "I'm your former classmate. Remember, second floor, old Main Hall?"

"Why Sam, of course I know you!" Without further question the lawyer wrote a check for $10,000. "Here, take this and get a new start. I don't care what's happened in the past, it's the future that counts." And with that he hurried on. Tears welled up in the man's eyes as he walked to a bank nearby. Stopping at the door, he saw through the glass well-dressed tellers and the spotlessly clean interior. Then he looked at his filthy rags. "They won't take this from ME! They'll swear that I forged it," he muttered as he turned away.

The next day the two men met again. "Why Sam, what did you do with my check? Gamble it away? Drink it up?" "No," said the beggar as he pulled it out of his dirty shirt pocket and told why he hadn't cashed it. "Listen, friend," said the lawyer.... "What makes that check good is not YOUR clothes or appearance, but MY signature. Go on, cash it!"

Isaiah described the sinful condition of man in a very descriptive and truthful way: "ALL of us have become like one who is unclean, and ALL our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we ALL shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away" (Isaiah 64:6).

The Good News is... that Jesus has “written a check” to cover our debt of SIN. The payment for OUR SIN cost Jesus HIS LIFE. He bore our sins in His own body on the cross, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness. We can be healed of our sinful condition because He PAID THE PRICE for sin (1 Peter 2:24).

As we look at OUR filthy rags, however, we may feel unworthy of “cashing the check.” Ashamed at our fruitless attempts to live the way that we should, we don’t feel like we deserve a fresh start. That’s the beauty of grace: we DON'T deserve it, BUT because of His love and mercy, God wants to give us a NEW BEGINNING. We will NEVER be able to earn this new life; we must simply “cash the check.”

What makes God’s “check” of salvation good is not YOUR clothes or appearance, but HIS signature, written with the cleansing BLOOD of Jesus!

To “cash” God’s check of salvation... we must place our faith in Him (Hebrews 11:6), repent of our sins (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38), AND dedicate the rest of our lives to faithful obedience to His will (1 John 1:7).

Dear Lord we thank You for signing the check. We pray that we would completely keep our trust in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Are Questioning the Ability of the Blood of Jesus?

Ephesians 1:7 (New International Version)
In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

One night in a church service a young woman felt the tug of God at her heart. She responded to God's call and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. The young woman had a very rough past, involving alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. But, the change in her was evident. As time went on she became a faithful member of the church. She eventually became involved in the ministry, teaching young children.

It was not very long until this faithful young woman had caught the eye and heart of the pastor's son. The relationship grew and they began to make wedding plans. This is when the problems began. You see, about one half of the church did not think that a woman with a past such as hers was suitable for a pastor's son.

The church began to argue and fight about the matter. So they decided to have a meeting. As the people made their arguments and tensions increased, the meeting was getting completely out of hand.

The young woman became very upset about all the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry the pastor's son stood to speak. He could not bear the pain it was causing his wife to be. He began to speak and his statement was this:

" My fiancée's past is not what is on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of the blood of Jesus to wash away sin. Today you have put the blood of Jesus on trial. So, does it wash away sin or not?"

The whole church began to weep as they realized that they had been slandering the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Too often, even as Christians, we bring up the past and use it as a weapon against our brothers and sisters. Forgiveness is a very foundational part of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. If the blood of Jesus does not cleanse the other person completely then it cannot cleanse us completely. If that is the case, then we are all in a lot of trouble. What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus....end of case!!!

Dear Lord We thank You for Your blood that has taken away all of our sins. We pray that we would not judge other but that we would forgive like You have forgiven us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bound to Forgive

Matthew 6:14-15 (New International Version)
14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Writer Norman Cousins said that life is an adventure in forgiveness. I think Fr. Lawrence Martin Jenco would agree.

In 1984, Fr. Jenco traveled to Beirut, dedicated to help the poorest of the poor. On January 8, 1985, he was kidnapped by Shiite Muslim extremists and held hostage for 564 days. He endured imprisonment, beatings, illness and heartbreaking periods of sorrow and loneliness. Several years after his release, he wrote a book (BOUND TO FORGIVE, Ave Maria Press, 1995) about his experiences in captivity and, more importantly, about the power of love and forgiveness.

Fr. Jenco tells about being taped like a mummy from his ankles to the top of his head each time he was transported from one place to another. He described being forced to breathe only from his nose as his mouth was stuffed with a cloth and taped shut.

He tells of times when his captors said they were going to kill him and he waited for the bullet to go through his head. Other times he was dressed up and told he was going home, only to have his spirits dashed when he was later informed they were just kidding.

He remembers being chained hand and foot, donning a plastic bag on his head, and left in a two-foot by six-foot closet. And he remembers his stench when he was denied washing for over four months.

He was later asked what lesson those of us who haven't been in such a position can learn from his experience and apply to our daily living. He said, "Just look at the madness that goes on in the world today. We lug our hates and our bigotry and prejudices from generation to generation and we pass [them] on.... We [must] stop and look at each other and say, 'I am so sorry for the hurt I caused you. I ask your forgiveness.' And then [we must] extend forgiveness and...receive forgiveness. Somewhere along the line we are going to have to do that. We're all bound to forgive."

Fr. Jenco has forgiven and can attest to the power of forgiveness. And though our hurt may not be the same as his, it is no less real. We, too, are "bound" to forgive. For when we covenant with life to earnestly forgive whatever hurts come our way, we see amazing results. We find inner peace and, often, improved physical health as well. As Dr. O. A. Battista says, "One of the most lasting pleasures you can experience is the feeling that comes over you when you genuinely forgive an enemy -- whether he knows it or not."

Genuine forgiveness is crucial if we are to be at peace. Whether or not it restores a broken relationship, it sets our own hearts free. Those who will be bound by the promise to sincerely forgive, will be freed from the bonds of the past. Bound by love, they are bound...to be happy.

Dear Lord we pray that we would be forgiving. Help us not hold grudges with those around us. We pray that we would show Your love in the way we respond to those around us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Monday, August 13, 2012

17 Days of Glory

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New International Version)
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

WOW what a great 17 days!  Regardless of the sport, it has been fun cheering along with my family.  I haven’t watched this much TV since.... well.... the last Olympics. Now it is time to get some rest and reflect on what we have experienced. I sure have enjoyed the Olympics these past weeks. Many of the stories are inspirational and encouraging. We see the story of life portrayed in the ups and downs, the striving, the unexpected twists and turns, and even the grit in picking oneself up and continuing.

One of the things I really enjoyed this year is the emphasis on the parent support, especially mothers. Proctor and Gamble produced this commercial honoring all that moms do to help their children succeed. It brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

Those spots remind me to express my thanks and be grateful for those behind the scenes. The teacher that comes in three weeks early before school starts to get her classroom ready and to write welcoming notes for her students. The man who walks the pews after church straightening up the mess left behind by others. People who pray for strangers and give to food banks.  So many everyday Olympians.

I remember seeing a video featuring the Olympic Gold Medalist and figure skating commentator Scott Hamilton, One of my all-time Olympians.  He shared his story and how the faith and support of his mother and his wife held him up in rough times and opened his heart to God. He reviewed his life especially after he faced cancer - twice and how it changed how he prays.

“Who would I have been without a brain tumor? I could choose to look at it as debilitating or focus on the suffering. I choose to look at my brain tumor as the greatest gift I could have gotten - it made everything possible. The only true disability in life is a bad attitude.”

It is amazing the lessons that surround us when we open our eyes and hearts to see, hear and learn them?

Another thing I have enjoyed is hearing the stories of the many challenges and obstacles that some of the athletes had to face on their way to becoming an Olympic athlete.  It is inspiring to see the dedication that they have made, along with their families, to be able to represent their country.   Whether it was watching a man run with prosthetics, to hearing how an athlete had to overcome numerous physical injuries, to hearing how a mother scrapped for every penny to finance her daughters Olympic dream, the Olympics are a reminder of the sacrifice it takes to earn an Olympic medal.  It is no wonder when an event is over to watch a grown woman or man break down in tears.  The countless hours of training that requires intense discipline, and the weight of knowing you represent an entire nation, would certainly bring an emotional response from anyone.  I remember the other day watching the US women’s gymnastics team receive their gold medal.   As the American flag was raised and the national anthem began to play, I felt an inner sense of pride that I was American.  Even though I did not participate, at that moment there was an emotional connection with those young girls who were representing my nation.

There were certainly many stories that are a great reminder of how important dedication, discipline, determination and desire are not just in sports but also in life.  However, I also think that the Olympics are a great reminder of some important spiritual lessons.  Perhaps the greatest one is that as followers of Jesus Christ we are also in a competition, and just like Olympic athletes we have to make sure that we have a good spiritual training program in place.  Things like reading God’s Word daily, praying, and removing those things in our lives which does not produce godliness are essential to anyone’s spiritual training program.  The question for each of us is what is your spiritual training program?  What are you doing in your life to prepare you for the race that is marked out for you?  Every time you admire an athlete who receives a medal, and you admire the strict training and sacrifices that he/she made to receive that award, remember that we too are competing for a medal.  However, our medal is not made of gold, silver or bronze that will wear away with time; instead, we are competing for a medal that is eternal.

Dear Lord as we think about the Olympics and the dedication of the athletes to do their very best we pray today that we would make it our goal to do our very best for You. We pray that we would run the race that is before us and that we would keep our eyes on You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.