On Wings Of Eagles

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Reaching out to other's in love

Genesis 50:20  (ESV)
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

The parents of Minnesota's 10-year-old Mackenzie wanted to give her a birthday party.

To make that wish a reality they invited 10 girls to the festivities.

For whatever reasons, all ten girls were unable to be at the celebration. Naturally, Mackenzie, who has some speech and learning difficulties, felt she had been ostracized by people she had hoped were her pals. It was a dark time for her and the entire family.

But what could be done? After all, you can't force people to come to a birthday party.

First, Mackenzie 's parents decided to try again. Her mom went on Facebook and explained the situation. She asked for a number of girls -- girls who were strangers -- to help her out and come to her daughter's party.

Mom got more than she bargained for.

People read that Facebook page and they were touched by Mackenzie 's story. In a few hours, hundreds of people said, "We're coming!" Included in that list was the mayor of the town where Mackenzie’s family lives. He came and he also declared the party day: "Mackenzie Day."

About 400 people showed up, including Minnesota Vikings wide-receiver Charles Johnson and his family. Some folks showed their support by sending money and local businesses donated food to feed the festive throng.

And Mackenzie ... how about Mackenzie? She said, "I have a hard time making friends in school, but thanks to all of you ... my voice was heard. I love you all." Her mom says they are going to use the extra money they had received to support organizations that put on birthday parties for sick children.

The whole story reminds us of the biblical narrative of Joseph. Having been sold into slavery by his brothers, years later, after the Lord had lifted him to a position of power, he told his brothers, "you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good ...."

There is no doubt there is evil in this world. But that doesn't mean God's people must accept it. There are times we can look evil in the face, dig in our heels, and ask the Holy Spirit to help us change things. That's what Mackenzie 's mom did; it's what the mayor of Shakopee, Minnesota, did; it's what those businesses and guests at the party did.

And it's what we can do too. It's what we do as we reach out to others in love, even as Jesus did the same for us.

Dear Lord, we live in a world which is very evil. Evil likes to push us around. Help us realize that we, in the Savior's Name, can push back in a most loving way. When we do, we pray the Holy Spirit will turn evil into good. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Believing like Buddy the Elf

Romans 15:13 (ESV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Tonight we watched one of our family’s favorite Christmas movies “Elf” with Will Farrell playing the main character “Buddy”.

Buddy is a human who was raised by Papa Elf in the North Pole. One day when he struggled with not belonging in the elf world…not fitting in. His adopted father told him about his biological dad and how to find him in New York City.

Buddy is filled with enthusiasm and childlike-faith in all things Christmas. There is no doubt in his mind that Santa exists because he knows Santa. There is joy in all things related to Santa and Christmas. Most importantly he is determined in everything he does to share that passion with others.

At the end of the movie, Santa’s sleigh is broken and the one way to make it fly is for more people to believe in Santa. Here are ways hearts began to believe:

Buddy was “set apart” in New York City. Everything he did (even how he dressed) was different. He whole-heartedly believed in something. He didn’t believe begrudgingly. He believed with enthusiasm, joy and passion. He couldn’t help but share his love with others.

How do we stand out in our own communities? Do we have that kind of passion & joy for our God?

Our God is so much more amazing than the “god” that Buddy believed in. Our God doesn’t make toys and deliver them in one night. Our God created the entire universe! Our God saw us in our sinful state and instead of condemning us; he was gracious enough to send His own son to die for us. That’s something to celebrate!

Why don’t we share God with those around is in a way that draws them to His heart? Why do we act like Christianity is a burden? Why do we allow the activities to take away our joy instead of doing them out of joy?

Like  Buddy remember “The best way to spread (Christian) cheer, is singing loudly for all to hear”

Dear Lord, help us remember the cheer that You give to each of us. Help us to share it with those You bring into our life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

God's promise is simple

Ephesians 2:8-9  (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The Irish had suffered so much during the famine years when their potato crops, their only available staple, failed. Though millions died, others looked to the horizon with hope in their hearts. Distant lands in far-away countries, lands where there was no famine, seemed promising.

That's when it all started. The Irish fled to Australia, to the United States and to Canada, and their migration lasted over a hundred years.

At the height of the Hunger Migration, the boat trips that lasted from five to eight weeks were particularly unsafe. The most desperate amongst them were willing to cross to North America during the winter months. It didn't take long for these winter boats to earn the label of "coffin ships." Typhus and fever became unwelcome passengers that claimed many lives, both on the boats and in the quarantine stations set up for them once they arrived in the "Promised Land."

Even though this "Promised Land" didn't turn out to be quite as promising as originally thought, the Irish continued their migration, even many years after the Great Hunger. They were tired of the ruthless domination by the British, but unfortunately, those who finally landed in North America soon discovered they were not overly welcomed there either!

All of these poor Irish came from rural, agricultural backgrounds. Now they were facing a completely different horizon, one ruled by the urban industrial world, and it wasn't long before this "Promised Land" turned into a nightmare. They were soon labeled the "Know-Nothing," as they sure were not used to making a living this way. When searching for employment, they more often than not encountered signs that read, "No Irish Need to Apply." It was clear they were not welcome, that they were a complete mismatch to this new culture!

The "Promised Land" that some churches offer is no better than the world faced by those Irish. These churches promise the moon, but instead, they offer us bondage and guilt. Jesus would say about these churches: "You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.'" (Matt 15:7-9)

Still, these churches are quite popular, for people seem to find a feeling of safety among the rules, even when these same rules are not God ordained. These doctrines are sadly proclaimed with a biblical fa├žade, but if their members would take the time and delve into them, they would indeed find that these "teachings are merely human rules," twisted for their own profit, just like in Jesus' days.

Beware of those: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from" our Heavenly Father. They have some kind of logic defending their doctrines, but their Bible texts are often taken out of context and history is twisted and turned into their own advantage.

It also does help to include some people of prominence among them, such as a prophet, to give them more credence. But when the teachings of these prophets and teachers are placed above God's Word, I wonder who they are truly honoring?

The Irish had fled their catastrophic land to come to a land that wasn't that all that promising after all. Why are we so tempted to do the same? Why do we put ourselves in a situation where we will experience spiritual wreckage? Aren't our Father's promises always fulfilled? Why turn to man-made religions, just because they have a Biblical twist? They are not the fulfillment of God's promises, and just like those poor Irish farmers arriving in North America, they will leave us wanting.

Turn to Him and Him alone. Only then will we find rest in the arms Of Jesus Himself.

Dear Lord, help us not take Your word and twist it to support what we think. Help us always to take Your word in context. We pray today that we would stay grounded in Your word. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Black Friday 2015

1 Peter 2:2 (ESV)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

What is America’s favorite holiday? Many of you will immediately think of Easter, while others think of Christmas. Still others might select New Year’s Eve, but none of these are even close. Thanksgiving? A favorite, but it’s not number one. If you define “favorite” as the day people show the most passion and excitement, many Americans’ favorite holiday is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday gets its name because so much merchandise is sold on that day that retailers literally see their profit and loss statements move from being in the red to being solidly in the black.

If you want to understand the passion this holiday inspires, watch what happens when stores open their doors at 5:00 a.m. Watch how grown men shove older ladies aside so they can be the first to grab that season’s hottest new video game. Notice the effort people exert so they can buy a toaster for $4. This passion may best be realized by what happened in New York one year. Just a few hours after putting down their Thanksgiving forks, 50,000 people stood in the rain overnight awaiting the 5:00 a.m. opening of a mall. Fifty thousand people— in the rain— just to grab some items on sale!

The only Black Friday that really matters is the Friday our Lord died upon the cross for each of our sins. So on this Friday remember the Black Friday that made the difference for each of us.

Dear Lord, thank You for dying on the cross for each of us on the first Black Friday and then three short days later conquering death by raising from the dead. In the Name of Jesus, Amen. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

5 kernels of corn and being thankful

Psalm 92:1 (ESV)
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

As Psalm 92 tells us, "It is good to give thanks to the LORD . . . to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night." With a little effort, you can make Thanksgiving a cherished family time devoted to thanking God for what He has done in your lives.

One tradition we did for years is to have five kernels of corn on each of our plates —a reminder of the Pilgrims' daily ration during one of their first difficult winters. Before we ate, we passed a basket around the table, and each person places one kernel of corn at a time into the basket and tells one thing he or she is thankful for.

Here are some of the things each of us can be thankful for:
•"I'm thankful for being able to have a family."
•"I'm thankful my brother/sister, son or daughter got to come home from college for Thanksgiving."
•"I'm thankful for God in my life."
•"I'm thankful for my ministry at my high school."
•"I'm thankful for my sister/brother teaching me about relationships."
•"I'm thankful for our food!"
•"I'm thankful for a great brother/sister."

Thanking God is a big step of our faith. It provides the true spirit of Thanksgiving—a heart of gratitude that gives thanks in all things.

Dear Lord, help each of us have thankful hearts. Help us not forget to say thank you to You each day for the things that You have done for each of us. In the Name  of Jesus, Amen. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Do you express appreciation?

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV)
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Have you ever given a gift to or done a favor for someone who didn’t express appreciation? It’s not much fun and certainly doesn’t inspire us to give to that person again. If we’re honest, we all have to admit that we’ve failed to say thank you.

Think about the people in service positions we encounter daily. Do you thank the folks at the dry cleaners when your shirts are ready when promised? How about saying thanks to the person behind the counter in the fast food restaurant? Do you express appreciation to the people in your office who answer the phone or process the mail?

Everyone likes to be appreciated, to hear “thank you” for things they’ve done well. Why not start today by saying thanks to the people who make your day run so smoothly. While you’re at it, thank God for all His blessings in your life.

Saying “thank you” is always appreciated. It sure makes the day a bit brighter.

Dear Lord, we want to take a minute to pray for those that serve each and every day. Help us to take a minute to thank them for the work that they do. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Be brave and make everyone feel like their home.

Acts 10:34-35 (ESV)
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

There was a country church, which was having an old-fashioned mission festival.

It was -- in the life of the congregation -- a big deal. For a year, men and women of the parish planned, worked, cooked and cleaned to make a good impression on the expected influx of visitors. When the week came, everything went according to plan. Even the weather seemed to cooperate.

Everything was perfect, except for one fellow who hung around on the outskirts of the festivities.

His clothing was torn and tattered, his appearance, grimy and grubby. His face sported a week's worth of stubble. No, this was not the fashionable, unshaved look of the men's clothing catalogs, this guy was just grungy.

Don’t think for a moment, that the fellow, who was not "one of them," was in the least bit intrusive. He wasn't. He didn't panhandle. He didn't look longingly when the plates of food were handed out. He didn't bother the children or the women. He was just there. Of course, most of the time the outsider was forgotten.

Finally, the last day came. People sang with a greater gusto than anyone could remember; the choir was dynamic in its praises. Then from the back of the gathering came the fellow who was not one of them. Wives whispered to their husbands, "Somebody ought to stop him." Husbands nodded, but nobody moved. The fellow reached the front of the congregation, stepped into the pulpit, and spoke. The man, who was not one of them, quoted Peter: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him."

The man continued, "This week, I was physically among you, but I was never, as so many of you have been saying, 'one of you.' Nobody included me or invited me to the activities. No one shared a meal." Then he added, "Most of you averted your eyes and made me invisible." After that the man preached a wonderful sermon about how the Lord Jesus came to seek and save sinners -- all sinners.

Churches that are warm, and growing, make a people feel like they are a long-lost relative who had returned home.

Why not this Sunday when you are encouraged to say, "Hello" to those around you, don't  just turn to your spouse and children. Be brave and make everyone feel like their home.

Dear Lord, help us to just like You loved and welcomed us into your family of faith do the same for others. In Jesus' Name. Amen.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Bringing them hope instead of blame.

Romans 2:3-4 (ESV)
3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Have you ever tried to ask for help, only to be thoroughly criticized?

Have you ever tried to reach out in love, only to be rejected?

But then, who among us never criticized someone else behind their back, or avoided people we don't like . . .

Is this the correct thing to do?

It's so easy to see the mistakes of others, and it's so easy to justify avoiding certain people. But does this make it right?

In the late 19th century in certain areas located in the south of Iceland, it was common to see poles erected in the ground in frequently travelling areas, especially areas where cities were far from each other and where travelers would easily get lost.

It sure would be easy to criticize such travelers. "They should have brought better maps with them, and maybe better equipment, too!" Such ramblings of our thoughts could easily justify the idea that these travelers should have to learn a lesson from their mistakes.

But such criticism was never the case in Iceland. If a traveler in one of these regions got lost and needed help, he or she would seek out one of these poles. There would be an oil lamp under each pole, and the lost person would light this lamp and hoist it up on the pole. The light would then be seen from afar, and anyone in the region that noticed it would come to the immediate rescue of that lost person.

In our modern world, there are literally thousands if not millions of people crying out for help. Their lives are far from delightful, and they are totally lost, having no clue how to resolve their dilemmas. I wish they could hoist up a lamp, so we would understand without a doubt that they need our help. Unfortunately, no one notices this fact, and they still hunger for help.

Criticizing these people won't help them. In fact it will only drive them deeper and deeper in complete despair. Only "kindness, tolerance and patience" will open the doors of their hearts, giving us the opportunity to help them, bringing them hope instead of blame.

Will you be the one to bring help to someone in need today?

Dear Lord, thank You that we can always come to You when we need help. Help us be the one that looks for someone in need and go to help them. In the Name, of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

You are never alone.

Luke 17:25 (ESV)
But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.

For many years Robert Manry held the record for piloting the smallest ship ever to sail the Atlantic Ocean.

The trip aboard his boat, the "Tinkerbelle," had difficulties as you can imagine. For example, because he was afraid of being run over, Manry did not dare to sleep when his craft was in the shipping lanes. The rudder of his vessel broke several times. He was often washed overboard, saved only by the rope he had tied between himself and his 13-foot vessel.

After 78 days at sea, Manry sighted land at Falmouth, England.

Two months at sea had left him with only this desire: he wanted to tie up his boat, find a hotel room, and get some sleep. The enthusiastic crowd that welcomed him had other ideas. A fleet of about 300 boats, all blowing their horns in salute, came out to greet him.

Forty thousand well-wishers lined the docks, cheering him in. Manry had sailed alone, had suffered at sea alone, but he received a hero's welcome!

Of course, Manry is not alone in suffering. Others, like Manry, have also suffered to complete their goals. Like Manry, most of them have been congratulated for their accomplishments.

But that was not the way it was for Jesus. When He died, there were no crowds cheering Him on. The only shouts were people rejoicing over His pain. For Jesus, there was no hotel room where He could rest. There would only be the dark, borrowed tomb.

When He rose from the dead, there would be no crowd of 40,000 well-wishers to acknowledge the event. As He suffered for humankind, He tasted the rejection of the very people He had come to rescue. Fulfilling the Father's plan of salvation for all who would believe in Him was a lonely one.

We need to realize Jesus' life, death and resurrection -- which won our salvation -- was not something He had to do. Nor was it something we had earned. Jesus' sacrifice was birthed out of God's goodness, greatness and grace.

Back then, Jesus' life was lonely. It shouldn't be the same today. Today you, and I, and all Christians ought to spend our lifetimes thanking Jesus for having endured rejection without objection, for having done all that was needed so we could be saved.

Dear Lord, because You are with us, we are never alone. We give thanks for Your presence in our life now and Your blood-bought salvation for our eternity. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Shine brightly no matter the circumsatnces

Luke 18:27 (ESV)
But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

In the St. Baafs Cathedral of Ghent, Belgium, you can find a huge painting (95.39 inches x 54.21 inches) called the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. This work, completed in 1432, was done by the famous Jan VanEyk and his brother Hubrecht. The painting, which mimics our walk through life, is quite remarkable. Security is on maximum around this piece of art, and it is illegal to even take pictures.

Anyone who pays the entrance fee will be mesmerized by the intricate beauty of this painting, with its rich, glowing colors and meticulously illustrated details. The theme, based on the book of Revelation, is the same message that Christians broadcast throughout life: Salvation is only obtainable through Jesus, the Christ, the Lamb of God.

This painting on display in St. Baafs Cathedral is mostly original. There is just one panel, the lower left corner, that is a reproduction of the original, but this reproduced piece tells a story: The work of art has not always had a peaceful existence!

In fact, its survival is a testimony by itself.

In 1566, over-eager Protestants stormed into Catholic churches in numerous cities around Belgium, destroying thousands of priceless works of art. It is unknown how the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb was spared, for it was certainly hard to miss.

The painting was again in danger in 1794, when overzealous French soldiers took it apart in sections. Most of these sections were then sold in 1816, and many faced destruction when a fire ravaged the building where they were stored. But despite this, they survived, thanks to the work of what would be considered in our time as a "simplified" fire department.

Thus, as you can see, the painting was doomed for destruction since its inception. Why? Was its message too revolutionary for this world? But it DID survive, for as truly as Jesus paid the price for us all, its message can never be destroyed. Interestingly, in its brokenness, the message became even more contagious.

Hannah depicted in 1 Sam 1 could relate with this painting. She, too, faced ridicule, mockery and a life filled with pain. Not being able to have children, she was despised by her husband's other spouse. In those days, people did not look too kindly upon women who could not bear children, so the town frowned upon her as well.

Desperate, she went into the temple and pleaded her case with the only Father she truly knew: "In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD. And she made a vow, saying, 'O LORD Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.'" (1 Sam 1:10-11)

But even in the temple she was looked upon with scorn. "Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk …" (1 Sam 1:13 NIV)

Broken, she became a vessel to proclaim God's glory. Surrendering her all to God, God was able to turn her life around in such a way that everyone would notice. And notice they did! Especially when her tummy started to grow!

She devoted the rest of her life to shining out His reflection in her life. As promised, once her child, her son, was weaned, she brought him to the temple to serve the Almighty God. "'So now I give him to the LORD . For his whole life he will be given over to the LORD.' And he worshiped the LORD there." (1 Sam 1:28)

It must have been hard for her to give up her only son, the fulfillment of all of her desires, but she knew God had greater plans than she could ever imagine and she trusted Him. Her son, Samuel, became one of the most renowned characters in all of Israel's history. His life portrayed who His true Father really was, the One who resides in heaven. And the rest is history . . .

In contrast, our lives are not history. At least not yet. Only part of our lives is in the past, and we still have a future to contemplate. What will become of it depends on what we do with our lives.

Do you feel broken and in despair? Do you feel like that painting that was torn apart in so many sections? Do you feel the fire of a raging neighborhood? Do not give up! Instead, offer your complete brokenness to your best Friend in heaven, your Creator, your Redeemer. He can make you shine! He can bring you back to your feet with a huge smile.

You may be desperately seeking a job. You may have become used to doors being slammed in your face. You may be anxiously looking for love, and instead be experiencing abuse and rejection. Your finances may be non-existent. Your desires may not seem to ever be filled. Don't let your circumstances bring you down! Your God is closer to you than you ever imagined. Reach out to Him. Surrender your brokenness to Him and you will find real joy.

You, too, can shine brightly, thanks to the One who paid the price for your redemption, the Lamb of God.

Dear Lord, thank You for paying the price so that we can be redeemed and shine with Your love and joy. In The Name of Jesus, Amen. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

God's Grace

Colossians 2:9-10 (MSG)
Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Imagine a world without God, how empty it would be. Chaos would become the norm, as right and wrong wouldn't matter any longer. "Me first" would reign in full vigor!

The prodigal son lived in such a world of indulgence. Taking his inheritance years before his dad even died, he opted for wild living, and no one could stop him.

At first he delighted in his endeavors, but soon his money ran out and life was no longer as expected. All his friends disappeared, never to be seen again. All those who hung around him for their own pleasure, also mysteriously vanished. He was left wanting with no one who cared. Welcome to planet earth!

He didn't even have enough food: "He was so hungry he would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but no one would give him any." (Luke 15:16) Not only was his stomach empty, but his soul was as well. He had truly hit rock bottom!

Good news though: "That brought him to his senses." (Luke 15:17a)

To make a long story short, he decided: "I'm going back to my father. I'll say to him, Father, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you, I don't deserve to be called your son . . ." (Luke 15:18)

Interestingly enough, his father was far more excited to see his son than to listen to his confession: "But the father wasn't listening. He was calling to the servants, 'Quick. Bring a clean set of clothes and dress him. Put the family ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.'" (Luke 15:22)

Do you find yourself completely dejected, hopeless and completely submerged in darkness, so much so that you can't even see the light any longer? Would you like to do something about it?

Get up and come to your Father in heaven and discover His abundant grace. He loves you far more than you love yourself! He will save you from your pit, dress you up and celebrate that you are allowing Him to give you a new opportunity, a life beyond imagination. There is hope after all!

After the battle of Gettysburg in 1863, it rained on the living and the dead. It's as if the skies were commiserating the fatal lot of most of these soldiers. The landscape was ravaged by cannon shells, wagon wheels and numerous footsteps from the soldiers who were no more. Many dead horses lay among the dead men. Cries of the wounded rose up amidst the stench of the dead. The locals' homes were also far from desirable. Either they had been burned down or had been partially destroyed, and blood was found where the wounded had lain.

Sadly, many soldiers ransacked Gettysburg, looking for food, clothing and spoils. Some locals tried to exploit the situation as well. They sold water, bread and anything possible, or charged wounded soldiers for a wagon ride to the hospital. This sure didn't help the civilians who were looking for their loved ones, dead or alive.

In such grim circumstances, the wounded soldiers had no chance for survival, unless they had money, that is! Despair must have rampaged, and prayers must have become even more abundant.

Then the unforeseeable happened. A real miracle! Local residents began to reach out to the wounded. Some cooked, as certainly these poor souls must have been hungry. Others provided transportation for free to the hospital or helped families finding their loved ones. Many nurses and doctors came to their rescue as well. The grimness was lifted, and hope became vibrant. Light started to shine and would continue to shine until everybody had been taken care of!

Your lot is not desperate. There is hope! Your circumstances may look grim, but then, God is way bigger than our circumstances. He can assure you that: "If God didn't hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn't gladly and freely do for us?" (Rom 8:32)

Isn't it time that we fully discover the grace He has reserved for us?

Dear Lord, thank You for the grace that You have for each on for us. Help us reach out and take advantage of what You have for each of us. In The Name of Jesus, Amen. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Take the time to be quite.

Psalm 46:10 (ESV)
 “Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

Popular author and speaker Ken Blanchard sometimes tells a powerful story about Red, a corporate president who, as a young man, learned an important and life-changing lesson. Red had just graduated from college and was offered an opportunity to interview for a position with a firm in New York City. As the job involved moving his wife and small child from Texas to New York, he wanted to talk the decision over with someone before accepting it, but his father had died and Red did not feel he had anybody to turn to. On impulse, he telephoned an old friend of the family, someone his father had suggested he turn to if he ever needed good advice.

The friend said he would be happy to give Red advice about the job offer under the condition that the young man take whatever advice he was given. "You might want to think about that for a couple of days before hearing my suggestion," he was told.

Two days later Red called the man back and said he was ready to listen to his counsel. "Go on to New York City and have the interview," the older man said. "But I want you to go up there in a very special way. I want you to go on a train and I want you to get a private compartment. Don't take anything to write with, anything to listen to or anything to read, and don't talk to anybody except to put in your order for dinner with the porter. When you get to New York call me and I will tell you what to do next."

Red followed the advice precisely. The trip took two days. As he had brought along nothing to do and kept entirely to himself, he quickly became bored. It soon dawned on him what was happening.

He was being forced into quiet time. He could do nothing but think and meditate. About three hours outside New York City he broke the rules and asked for a pencil and paper. Until the train stopped, he wrote -- the culmination of all his meditation.

Red called the family friend from the train station. "I know what you wanted," he said. "You wanted me to think. And now I know what to do. I don't need anymore help."

"I didn't think you would, Red," came the reply. "Good luck."

Now, years later, Red heads a corporation in California. And he has always made it a policy to take a couple of days to be alone. He goes where there is no phone, no television and no people. He goes to be alone; to meditate and to listen.

Dear Lord, help us to be quite and know You are God. Help us to take the time to go to You with our big and small needs. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

God makes all things beautiful

1 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

One of my fond memories I have growing up was the camping trips I would take with Christian Service Brigade. It always amazed me on sunny days how the ordinary and even unsightly things would be transformed into something beautiful by those warm and vibrant rays. An ordinary piece of moss glows with an almost fluorescent scope of greens and yellows, a long dead aspen is robed in silver or a plain rock suddenly displays the loveliest shades of red and brown.

Likewise, so it is with those of us who know the Lord. In Him we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory. That which is ordinary about us, that which is unlovely is all in the midst of the beauty of his transformation within us that we might be more and more like him. What an absolutely amazing and wondrous truth is this.

So let us cast aside those negative thoughts about ourselves. Let us cast aside false guilt and discouragement when we feel we haven't measured up and let us rise on the wings of his Spirit to praise and glorify his name with bright and cheerful hearts full of the sunshine and beauty of the Son's transformation.

Dear Lord, thank you so much that we reflect Your glory and are being transformed into Your likeness. Bless us with continued faith to believe and embrace this amazing truth as we walk in the light of your Son. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The power of water

Matthew 22:29 (ESV)
But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.

The provinces of New Brunwick and Nova Scotia have one thing in common: they share the highest tides on our planet. Imagine 100 billion tons of seawater flowing in and out of the Bay of Fundy daily, or, to put it in terms more easy to understand, 338 983 050 847 457 ten-ounce-glasses of water. I doubt we could drink that much in a life time! To tell you the truth, that amount of water is higher than all of our planet's freshwater combined!

The Bay of Fundy not only experiences a 50 foot tidal range, which is 5 times higher than the usual tides on the Atlantic coast, but in some parts of its Bay, the tide retreats as much as 3 miles. And these high tides and low tides happen, on average, every six hours and 13 minutes.

Scientists have found an explanation for this phenomenon. These high tides are especially due to resonance and to the shape of the bay. The water in this Bay has a natural resonance, or rocking motion, which they call seiche. It's kind of like when we get into the bathtub, and the water sloshes from side to side for a few seconds. In the Bay of Fundy however, it takes about 13 hours for the water to "slosh" from the mouth of the bay to its head and back again. In essence, the Bay of Fundy is like an enormous bathtub, with the ocean tides invading the bay every 12 hours and 25 minutes reinforcing this resonance!

The bay's unique shape contributes to the high tides as well. As the bay becomes narrower and shallower, toward the upper bay (From 426 feet to 131 to be exact.), the saltwater is forced even higher onto the shores.

For many centuries people didn't understand the kind of power contained by the Bay of Fundy, and even less how to apply such a force in their daily life. After all, how could having the world's highest tides impact local lives for the better?

In 1984 the first tidal power station emerged in North America on the shores of the Bay of Fundy, in Annapolis, Nova Scotia, and since then, all over the world such tidal power stations are being built. Why? Because they are one of the most reliable natural resources! As long as we have a moon and a sun, they will generate electricity!

As Christians, we, too, aren't all that sure how to access the power provided to us by the Holy Spirit. Sadly, many of us aren't even aware that God is providing us with such power! But the Bible is specific: "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you." (Acts 1:8)

But just as the power in the Bay of Fundy is useless unless we harness it, we too have to become familiar with the power God has provided us with.

Unlike the powers in this world, this power strives on weakness and unselfishness:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor 12:9)

It's power, however, is more powerful than all the atomic bombs in our world: "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come." (Eph 1:18-21)

Isn't getting to know Him what it's all about? Remember there is beauty in suffering as well as in rejoicing, as long as we remain focused on the One who loves us way beyond reason.

The next time you drink a glass of water, remember: God has given you power through His Holy Spirit. He is the living water who will set you free!

Dear Lord, thank You for being the living water. Thanks for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Remember the scars

Isaiah 53:5  (ESV)
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.

At the close of the Civil War in the United States, General John B. Gordon ran for the Senate in the state of Georgia. At that time, legislatures elected the senators. A former comrade of the General, who disliked him intensely, was a member of the Georgia state legislature. This man planned to vote against the General. When the day came for the roll call vote, the General sat on the platform watching. When the man who hated him rose to cast his oral vote, historians tell us that he stopped and stared at General Gordon's face. There was an ugly scar on the General's face, a war wound and a testimony to his devotion and suffering during the war. The legislator choked back tears and those near him were the only ones who could hear him murmuring, "I can't vote against him - I'd forgotten the scar!

"Consider the scars of another Man... There is a scar in each of His hands left by nails driven through them into the rough timber of a Roman cross. There is also a scar in each of His feet where a single nail was driven through them, one on top of the other. There are scars upon his forehead and across his back. There is also a scar left by a soldier who pierced His side with a spear to make sure that He was dead.

"But what do His scars mean to ME?" You may ask. Because of His scars, you and I can find healing for our sinful condition. Seven hundred years before His death on the cross, Isaiah prophesied how this Man would take upon Himself the sins of the world: "Surely He has borne our grief And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes - we - are healed! All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, everyone to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Through His death on the cross, this Man - Jesus Christ, the Son of God - paid the "price" for SIN. Those who place their trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), repent of their sin (Acts 26:20), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) in His name (Acts 2:38) have their sins washed away. Then those who to "walk in the light as He is in the light" will continually be cleansed by "the Blood of Jesus Christ His Son" (1 John 1:7).

Someone has well stated: "The only man-made things in heaven, are the Scars inflicted upon the body of Jesus, the Son of God."

Remember those Scars! Remember the reason why! Then think about what they should mean to each of us....

Will you respond in trusting obedience to the Savior?

Dear Lord, thank You for the scars that You bore for the forgiveness of our sins. Help us to not ever forget them or what You did for us. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Who are you promoting?

Matthew 4:9  (ESV)
And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”

An enemy has invaded many parts of North America.  Its name? The Asiatic Bittersweet. And true to its name, it is far from being sweet. Rather, it is quite bitter! Just ask the hundreds of park rangers who spend literally thousands of hours every year trying to eradicate it!

Why do they worry about it, you ask? After all, the plant is beautiful!

The problem is that this exotic vine is quite invasive, so invasive that it strangles the life from any native vegetation in its path, trees included, and spreads so fast that even the speed of light cannot match its speed!

Or so it seems . . .

Pulling or cutting this vine is quite ineffective, as its remaining roots will multiply thousand fold. This vine truly believes it is the king of nature and that no one will ever be able to stop it.

Similarly, the evil one has a similar ambition. His, though, includes not only the subjection of the world, but of the entire universe as well! And he, too, firmly believes that no one can stop him. It is quite fascinating how his ambition came to be. The prophet Isaiah gave us a glimpse of his original rebellion: "You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven, I will rise my throne above the stars of God."(Isaiah 14: 13a)

Alluding to the king of Babylon, Isaiah was referring here to the one we now call the evil one. Originally though, his name was Lucifer, or "Morningstar, son of dawn" (Verse 12b). You see, Lucifer originally occupied a high position in heaven. However this was not enough for him. He wanted more. He desired to not only "be" God, but to be far above the Eternal One Himself! Wasn't he, after all, "the Morningstar"?

What? You never thought about this before? Check out the following Bible verses:

"I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the mount of assembly; on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (Isaiah 14: 13b, 14)

Pride is clearly what motivates him, total control is his goal, as he clearly declared it while tempting Jesus in the desert: "'All this I will give you', he said 'if you will bow down and worship me.'" (Matthew 4:9)

Lucifer truly wants to be revered as God himself, or, as the Asiatic Bittersweet would say: "I want to be the rooster of the farm"! Or is it "I want to be the alpha of the pack"? (This is what happens when one wants to be in control. Even popular sayings get changed!)

The evil one will do anything in his power, even subtle maneuvering, to receive such worship. After all, anyone who destroys his life through drugs, sex, pride, avarice . . . isn't he indirectly or directly, (depending on your way of looking at things), worshiping the one who used to be called Lucifer? Isn't such a person putting more credence to the one who is tempting him than in the Almighty One Himself? Only too late do we realize that it is not to our advantage to fall into these temptations. In fact, the only purpose it serves is to help Satan obtain the worship he craves. How unlike the One we call our Savior, Jesus the Christ who has "Come that they have life, and have it to the full.

We either promote God's Kingdom, or we promote the kingdom of the evil one. There are no other alternatives.

Dear Lord, help our focus be on furthering Your kingdom and not that of the evil one. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

We should be a model of Christ

Titus 2:7  (ESV)
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity.

When I was a pre-teen, putting together model cars was the in thing. I would look at the shelves lined with model cars of various styles, shapes, models, and prices and try and figure out which one I wanted to put together. I suppose most young men wanted to know how to work on cars. Assembling a model car would give them a chance to learn the various parts of the motor.

While the finished product was stylish, getting to that point was difficult. Model car glue and super glue were surely related. Parts had to be placed in the correct spot quickly and with no glue on your fingers.

Model cars were impressive when assembled correctly, but sometimes mine were a poor representation of the real thing. Paul reminds Titus he was a model to those God had called him to teach. He may have been young, but his good works, teaching, and integrity were to model Christ well.

Believers are models of Christ. I'm not sure my one cemented together model car was a good representation of the real thing. My life, however, should display a more accurate depiction. Jesus modeled the Father. He said looking at Him was the same as gazing upon the heavenly Father. He was kind, compassionate, empathetic, service minded, conscientious of others' needs, and firmly grounded in the Word. When tempted, He was armored to resist the fiery darts of Satan. In times of persecution-even death-for His beliefs, He stood firm.

Constant attention to what kind of models we are is essential. An unfocused mind is a wandering mind-into places, actions, and words that don't represent Christ well. Distractions will take us where we don't need to go and in the process distort the model others see.

Remember how the Christ who put you together appears. Don't let someone or something glue pieces where they don't belong.

Dear Lord, give us strength to model Your attributes well before others today. Help us to become the people You want us to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.