On Wings Of Eagles

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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Now is the time to share the good news


Mark 1:15 (ESV)
And saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Peter the Great led the Russian Empire from 1682 until his death in 1725. While he reigned, he expanded the empire into eastern Europe, initiated a cultural revolution, and built the Russian military into a formidable force.

Napoleon Bonaparte was the emperor of France from 1804 to 1814. Through a series of military victories and key alliances, he expanded the influence of France throughout Europe. He changed the political structure of France and influenced the development of legal codes around the world.

Jesus Christ was born in a small town in Judea, a nation that lived under Roman occupation throughout his lifetime. He never commanded an army. He did not travel outside of a small region stretching from Judea to Galilee. His followers were an unrefined group who lacked the courage to stay with him when he was arrested. When he died, it looked as if his influence had ended.

Today, the Russian and French empires have long ago fallen from their peak of influence, but the kingdom of Jesus continues to expand. Millions gather every week to worship him. Organizations bearing his name provide relief, food, medical help, and education. His good news is proclaimed on every continent in countless languages.

Are you part of this kingdom? Are you sharing the good news?

Dear Lord, stir our hearts so that we too will participate in spreading Your kingdom vision and renewing Your world. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Communication


Hebrews 1:2 (ESV)
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

When we are away from family and friends, it’s good to keep in touch with them. Today we can do that by phone, text message, e-mail, Facebook—and even by the old method of sending postcards or letters.

God’s message comes to us in his Word, the Bible. And the Word of God has become flesh in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5, 9-14). As believers today, we can now hear and receive and live by the Word of God, and we experience something of the life God intended for us when he created the universe.

In the Old Testament God spoke through the prophets, but that communication was often limited to the situations of the people in those days. Prophets were spokespeople for God; Jesus is the Son of God. Prophets grasped part of the mind of God; Jesus is the mind of God. What more can be said than what God has spoken to us through his Son?

There are many ways in which God continues to communicate to us through Jesus, by the power of his Spirit. Today God’s Word is proclaimed all over the world. May people receive it for what it really is: good news that opens us to new life with God. Daily we read Scripture not simply for information but to hear how God is directing and sustaining us through his Son. As we follow Jesus, we also learn to pray and work, spreading the good news of salvation to build up the kingdom of God.

Dear Lord, speak to us so that we may speak in living echoes of your tone.  Bring your Word to reach into all our hearts, that we may live by the truth. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, February 14, 2020

The middle in the chocolate


Psalm 34:8 (ESV)
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Everywhere you look near Valentine's Day, there's chocolate: boxes of chocolate in all the stores, chocolate on tv promising to be the only love you need, chocolate girl scout cookies--CHOCOLATE! I think that's what led me to remember the famous quote from Forrest Gump: "Life is like a box of chocolates...you never know what you're gonna get."

In reality, that phrase can be true in many ways. We wake up every morning completely unsure of what the day may hold for us. We've made our plans. Sometimes they even happen the way we make them. But we never know for sure, do we?

The days that come with caramel in the middle are my favorite. The ones with the strawberry goo are just so so--but the ones with coconut--YUCK! I'd rather go back to bed. Then there's the days where tragedy or difficult times come out of nowhere, and the chocolate sits in the pantry untouched...there's no sweetness to be had in those moments.

God knows that life as it pertains to circumstances is uncertain for us. That's why He comforts us and reminds us so many times that He is our constant companion, our steadfast friend, our consistently loving God and Savior. He doesn't keep promises the way we do:

You see, no matter what chocolate we are "in the middle of" right now, He is there--with the certainty of His promise today as well as His hope of heaven in the future

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God where Jesus.

I love the visual picture of grabbing on to Him with both hands as He runs ahead of me to the Father. That makes me able to get up today and praise Him for whatever comes my way. This faith, this confidence, this hope is our unbreakable spiritual lifeline--HIS love for us no matter what, when, how or why. Let's binge on His priceless box of chocolates today...the sweetest and most satisfying of them all.

Dear Lord, we thank You for Your promise that You are always there with us no matter the chocolate filling we are going through. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Love God and love others


Matthew 22:40 (ESV)
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

None of us likes to be upstaged by anyone. It makes us feel dumb, especially if others are watching. No one wants to be embarrassed. The Pharisees were not going to be stomped on by some “fly by night” rabbi named Jesus. They were the real scholars; they had been to the best schools, studied under the best professors, and graduated at the top of their class. The Pharisees had the question they believed would stop Jesus in his tracks: “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” They thought, “This will trick him, and then people will know that he isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.”

The Pharisees based their lives on acquiring knowledge to boost their egos and reputations. Jesus used his knowledge to bring sinners to the Father’s love. The most important answer to the question is quite simple: love God and love others. The Pharisees were not loving God for God’s sake, but for their sake. They loved God with their minds but refused to love people God’s way.

How would you answer the question if you were asked? Are you loving God with all of your passion, intelligence, and strength? It requires a childlike faith in the One who first loved us. Are you loving your neighbors on your block and at work Jesus’ way? It requires experiencing the abundant love that Jesus has lavished on us. It’s a question worth answering!

Dear Lord, we struggle to love You with all are heart, soul, and mind. Help me to love you and others your way today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

God can give peace


Philippians 4:7 (ESV)
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

There was a time in my youth, when elephant jokes were all the rage, a friend challenged me not to think of pink elephants for the next five minutes. “I bet ya can’t keep ’em out of your mind,” he said.

But Christ’s followers, says Paul, can and should direct their thoughts, in the power of Christ, to things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. Martin Luther said about temptations, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” The peace of God should guard our hearts and minds.

There have been times when I was oppressed by desolate thoughts going around in vicious circles. And I have seen people walking the streets snarling to themselves, tortured by some nameless horror.

Forgiveness from God is the beginning of breaking the vicious circle. In turn, when we follow Christ’s command to forgive those who have wronged us, we are freed from the chains of lifelong grudges and bitter thoughts. And it helps to know that the love of the Creator of the universe surrounds us. That knowledge changes the world we inhabit, lifts us out of the slimy pit, and puts a new song in our mouth (Psalm 40:2-3). A life of joy and peace dawns after we leave the dark night of sin that enslaved us.

Dear Lord, pour the healing peace of the Holy Spirit on our troubled souls so that we may we be a blessing for others who seek peace and refuge with You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Truth is important


Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Carl had a steady job, and his income was just enough to cover his family’s expenses. He also had a debit card that he loved to use for lots of little things like snacks and drinks. His wife, Becky, who was trying to balance the family budget, would often ask how much he was spending. “I don’t remember; I forgot to get the receipt,” he would answer. His lack of honesty about the money was causing serious friction in their marriage.

In any relationship, there can be no trust without truth. Our society’s legal system cannot function without people being sworn to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” Suspicion and frustration replace peace between people when they tell lies and break promises.

Truth is precious to followers of Jesus Christ. He is the source and substance of truth from God.

The first truth we need to know is that, although God created us to love and glorify him, we are sinful and unable to save ourselves from eternal destruction. The second truth is that God gives forgiveness and everlasting life through the death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. The third truth is that once we have believed in Jesus, we must walk in truth, being honest with one another.

Have you ever damaged a relationship by lying? How important is the truth to you?

Dear Lord, we believe that You are the way, the truth, and the life for us. Teach us how to speak the truth in love always. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Debt of love


Romans 13:8 (ESV)
Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

If we are trying to live the Christian life and we fill it with Christian things—Christian books, conferences, music, movies—there may be something missing. If we leave no room in our life to be inconvenienced by service to others, we are missing a vital part of Christlike living. What we do, how we live, and how we treat others comes down to a matter of love. Paul notes this in our passage today, describing it as a permanent debt we owe—a debt owed every day.

Love involves more than an action shown to another person. Love consists of an underlying attitude and mindset that motivates our actions toward others. It’s not an attitude reserved only for fellow believers; it’s also for everyone who is not part of the community of believers. It is an ongoing theme that Paul continues to talk about in many of his ­letters.

Pursue love today. Let it guide the way you think. Let it be evident in your patience and kindness. Let it lead you toward forgiveness, truthfulness, and endurance. In everything you think about today, and everything you say and do today, let love be the motivation. Filled with God’s love, we can’t help overflowing with love and care for others.

Dear Lord, help us to love others because we are filled with Your love. Enable us to give this gift regardless of how we have been treated; may we follow Jesus’ example in all we do. In the Name of Jesus,  Amen.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Spreading His grace


Acts 8:30 (ESV)

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”


Believers and nonbelievers both hear the word "witnessing" and want to run. Many church people will bake a pie, work a sound booth, change diapers in nursery, even clean the bathroom, but they don't want to "witness." If you attend a neighborhood barbecue and say the word "evangelism" a bit too loudly, you just might not receive an invitation next time.

Philip had a lot of reasons not to walk up to the Ethiopian and his chariot:

·       Philip wasn't Ethiopian; they were worlds apart culturally.

·       Philip was out of his league. The Ethiopian was a high government official, the secretary of the treasury.

·       Philip's friend Stephen had just gotten killed as a result of "witnessing."

Yet Philip obeyed. Why? Maybe he heard the Spirit whisper, "I will give you the words to tell about me." We do know God prepared the Ethiopian's heart, leading him to read a text about Jesus and to ask Philip what it meant. And God caused the man to believe.

If God leads, will you follow? If we think of "witnessing" less as marketing and more as listening--to God and to the people he puts in our path--maybe our courage will grow. And maybe God will use us to help change someone's life for eternity.

Dear Lord, please prepare people's hearts with earnest, spiritual questions and lead them to us. Please also give us the answers we need in order to share your truth and love. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Garbage


Philippians 3:8 (NLT)
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.

On our roadways we find lots of garbage—empty and broken bottles, plastic bags, wrappers, broken pieces of stuff we can barely identify. All of it was once useful but is no longer needed or is just broken or lost. Though it ought to be cleaned up, it’s clear that no one really needs it.

Paul writes about many things that he once thought he needed—for example, his flawless Jewish heritage. According to the law of God, this Pharisee was about as righteous as anyone could be. But Paul now considers all this “a loss.” This is the same word used in Acts 27:21 for a ship’s cargo that is tossed into the sea in a vicious storm. It has value, but compared to saving a person’s life, it is, as Paul bluntly calls it, “garbage.” Far more valuable, he says, is “to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings.”

Often we also place too much value on the wrappings of our faith and miss the real gift. Maybe it’s our status as a church leader, or our membership in a popular church. Or maybe we think our own gifts and talents are better than others’. In comparison to really knowing Jesus, these other things are merely garbage. Of course, we shouldn’t toss them out, but we must place them at the foot of the cross, asking Jesus to infuse our church, our lives, and our ministry with his love, purpose, and power.

Dear Lord, if we have placed too much importance on the wrappings of our faith. Please fill our lives with your love and power. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Sin and God's grace


Psalm 19:12-13 (ESV)
12 Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

Psalm 19:12-14 mentions three kinds of sin—errors, hidden faults, and willful sins.

Errors—sins we commit and are not aware of. David says, “Who can discern [one’s] errors?” We can commit error-sins for years and not be aware of them, unless someone courageously and lovingly points them out.

Hidden faults—sins we commit that we are aware of, but try to hide, hoping nobody catches on. David prays, “Forgive my hidden faults.”

Willful sins—attitudes, thoughts, words, actions that we know are wrong, and yet we do them anyway. David asks, “Keep your servant also from willful sins.”

But there is something encouraging here also. Though David knows he is a sinner, he is also still God’s servant.

Even willful sin doesn’t exclude us from God’s love. God’s grace never gives up on us! “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). Despite our sin, we are still God’s servants. Maybe that’s why David asks, “May [my sins] not rule over me.” God’s servants have one ruler—and it ought not to be willful sin.

So David prays, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight.” And of whom does he make that request? “O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Dear Lord, we thank You that our sin unintentional or willful, hidden or known is never too great for your discerning, forgiving, keeping grace. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

We all have a Super Bowl


1 Corinthians 10:14 (ESV)
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

When the NFL season begins, most teams have their sights set on winning the Super Bowl. Coaches motivate their players to work hard, so they can accomplish the major feat of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Players are judged differently after they win a ring, and the value placed on championships is immense. There are plenty of players preparing to step on the field tonight who have yet to experience the excitement of winning on the largest stage.

These guys have been dreaming about this moment since playing Pop Warner as kids. When listening to them talk about the Super Bowl, they obviously want to win so bad. They realize the monumental impact it would have on their lives, and are consumed with doing what it takes to become Super Bowl Champions.

Of course, this requires enormous dedication with countless hours in the film room and on the practice field. Little else matters and they don’t want anything getting in the way of the opportunity to grasp that coveted trophy.

The sports world, and even society, have elevated the Super Bowl to unbelievable heights. The standard of success in winning the Lombardi Trophy is so important that it has become an idol for those involved. It’s worshipped in a way that requires a full commitment from those pursuing it.

As easy as it is for an NFL player to get wrapped up in desiring a Super Bowl ring, we must also be aware of the “shiny objects” in life that are fighting for our full attention.

If we aren’t careful, we can fall into the trap of idolizing anything from a dream home to a new car to moving up the corporate ladder. All of our thoughts, conversations, and efforts go toward what we desire so much. That could even be getting married, having a baby, or making it to retirement.

Just like the Super Bowl, these things aren’t bad. But when they become our idols and our total focus, they replace God as our greatest love and devotion. We’re chasing satisfaction in something else.

If we’re consumed by acquiring that “one thing,” or excessively driven to making something happen in our lives, we can end up devaluing our relationship with God.

Our own “Super Bowl win” becomes the ultimate prize, while our worship and commitment to God gets pushed aside.

The Bible clearly addresses this in 1 Corinthians 10:14 (AMP):“Therefore, my beloved, run [keep far, far away] from [any sort of] idolatry [and that includes loving anything more than God, or participating in anything that leads to sin and enslaves the soul].”

We can love God and follow Jesus and still “win Super Bowls.” But, we must constantly check our hearts to determine our motivation and what we consider most important.


Dear Lord, we confess there are times that we want something so badly that it consumes all of my thoughts and efforts, and as a result, we are not focused on You. We don’t want to love anything more than You or allow anything to become more important than a full commitment to You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Story time


Luke 15:20 (ESV)
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Nothing thrills kids more than when they can curl up on the couch with their grandfather as he reads stories to them. Stories are something that help us all learn and imagine and wonder. Jesus told great stories, and many of them are parables about living as part of God’s family in this world.

One of the best-known parables of Jesus is this story in Luke 15 about the lost son, often called the “prodigal son.” But this story could also be called the parable of the loving Father.

A young man looking for adventure takes his dad’s money (his inheritance) and leaves home. He wastes the money foolishly and loses everything. He learns that the adventure he wanted didn’t really satisfy, and that people can be shallow and harsh. He also learns what it means to be hungry. The young man turns toward home, not really believing anyone will want him. But he is willing to work as a hired servant. What he discovers is the love and forgiveness of his father and a genuine, gracious welcome.

There are times in our lives when we crave adventure. We jump into something that we think will bring us pleasure, only to find ourselves alone and afraid. As he tells this parable, Jesus invites us all to come home to God’s forgiveness.

Have you experienced the Lord’s love and forgiveness?

Dear Lord, thank You for forgiveness and for the reminder that You open your arms wide and run to us. Help us to turn around and come home. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Perfecter of Faith


Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Do you know what it means to "tartle"? It's a Scottish word used when, after being introduced to someone, you promptly forget that person's name. In embarrassment, Scottish people say, "Pardon my tartle!"

Some words are hard to translate from one language to another. We have a case of this with Jesus' title "pioneer and perfecter of faith." The author uses the Greek word archegos to describe Jesus's relation to our faith. The word originally meant "hero or founder of a city." Since the Greek word doesn't neatly translate into English, it is translated variously as "pioneer," "author," "originator," "guide," "initiator," or "source."

The same difficulty in translation is found with the Greek teleiotes, the second title for Jesus in relation to our faith. This word originally meant "to carry through or complete," and it is translated as "per­fecter," "completer," or "finisher."

Despite the complexity of translating this title of Jesus, the truth is simple and profound: Jesus, who initiated our faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, will remain with us until we see him face to face. He is the founder and finisher of our faith. So let's take comfort in this truth and run the good race of faith by following Jesus.

Dear Lord, we take great comfort and confidence in You as the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Help us to follow You courageously today and every day in obedience and loving service. In the Name of Jesus, we pray, Amen.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Birthday thoughts


Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.

As I finish my 58th trip around the Sun and begin my 59th trip, I continue to be amazed how I am truly blessed to have wonderful people around me. Here are a few reflections from my birthday:

– I am grateful to God for his everlasting love upon me and his unending grace that has transformed my life and taken me on an exciting life journey
– I am grateful for my Amazing Wife, my best friend, girlfriend for life, prayer warrior, teacher and much more, who continues to love no matter what, and challenges me to be a better man and desires the very best for me
– I am grateful for my amazing sons who continue to bless me with their daily lives, I am a better man and dad because of them
– I am grateful for my parents; without them I would not be where I am today
– I am grateful for my brothers, their love for me is inexplainable and they continue to challenge me to be a living example
– I am grateful for my in-laws; I am eternally grateful for the day God made me a part of their family –blessing me with another mom and dad
– I am grateful for my mentors; I continue to strive to be a better version of myself because you set the mark higher each day and you continue to believe in me and encourage me even when I do not see much value in myself
– I am grateful for all those who allow me to mentor them, they give me the opportunity to pass on my knowledge to them and challenge me daily to live an intentional life
– I am grateful for my friends who continue to love me and bring out the best in me
– I am grateful for those who have impacted my life in one way or the other, my encounter with them have left an imprint in my life and have led me down the path of living an intentional life
– I am grateful for those who have been impacted by me, I desire to live an intentional life because of the blessing it will bring to you
– I am grateful for all the opportunities I have had; I have been amazed at fact that life brings a lot of them into our paths and every decision that we make has an opportunity with it
– I am grateful for all the challenges I have faced, they have humbled me and made me a better version of myself
– I am grateful though my body is weak at times God continues to give endurance and strength (as a side note I am grateful that I made it through a year with no surgery)
– I am grateful for blessings in my life and to have the opportunity every day to put a smile on people’s face and be a blessing
– I am grateful for my country, for giving me the good foundation that I have and continue to build on
– I am grateful for this life that I live, it is not my own and I give it all up to God for the higher calling for which I continue to answer to
– I am grateful for the growth I experience on a daily basis
– I am grateful for you all as you read this and commit to living an intentional life and being a better version of yourself
– I am grateful to God and his love for me

I have been blessed beyond measure by the people God has placed around me, the places I have been, the experiences I have had and the growth I continue to see in my life. I desire to make an impact in my world and even if it’s for one person, I will be eternally grateful.

Thank you for celebrating with me!

Dear Lord, we thank You for the life that You give to each of it. Helps us each day to remember the great blessings You give to each of us. Help us to always strive to become the person you have for us to be. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Keeping pearls away from pigs


Matthew 7:6 (ESV)
Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

I read a story about a family dog named Scooter. Scooter was a family dog, and during most of the dinner times, Scooter was confined to her doghouse. There was one exception each year. When it was dad’s birthday dinner the occasion deemed special enough that even Scooter was allowed to socialize with the family at the table. In fact, the dad even fed Scooter a piece of the prime-cut roast beef specially prepared for the occasion! Though she eagerly scarfed the roast, I’m sure Scooter failed to appreciate the fine delicacy she had been graciously given.

That is what it’s like when we offer godly counsel to people who are not ready or willing to hear it. Wisdom, correction, counsel, and rebuke are as precious as pearls. Proverbs 9 tells us that godly people welcome such input. But foolish people want nothing to do with wise correction. Instead, they will tear you to pieces with arguments, resistance, or mocking.

Even though we have a responsibility to humbly correct people who are struggling with sin, Jesus urges us to discern whether a person is open to correction or counsel. If the person who needs correction is resistant to you, it is often better to step back, prayerfully ask God to soften their hearts, and wait until they are open to listening to godly wisdom. We must handle the precious gospel of Jesus with care, both giving and receiving counsel with careful discernment.

Dear Lord, thank You for having entrusted us with the precious truth of Your Word. May we receive its guidance as precious treasure, and may we share your wisdom wisely. In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Who is in your boat?


Luke 8:22 (ESV)
22 One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out.

Many of the disciples were ex­peri­enced fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. They had often weathered sudden squalls and treacherous waves. They knew that storms could come out of nowhere. So when Jesus suggested rowing to the other side of the lake, they knew they had to be ready for anything.

In the seas of life, we grow to learn that storms can sneak up on us. A bill out of nowhere can take a bite out of your pay­check. A parent suddenly be­comes ill, and you become a caregiver. A child’s bad decision can lead to a day in court and a prison sentence. Such storms cause our anxiety to rise to dangerous levels. We look for help from someone to calm us down, fix the problem, and restore life to the way it was.

The disciples never stopped to think what it meant to have Jesus in the boat with them. And, to them, He wasn’t doing anything! But, of course, He was sleeping—not worrying or getting frantic about the storm. The disciples spent so much energy trying to save themselves from the storm on their own power that they forgot to be still and recognize that Jesus is God, who had their lives in his hands. Jesus was in their boat. All they needed to do was trust in him.

You and I cannot control the sudden storms of life. That’s the way life is. But Jesus is with us. And that’s the best thing.

Dear Lord, thanks for being in our boat. Your resting does not mean inaction; it reminds us to place all our anxieties on You because You care for us. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

A smile and outstretched hands


1 John 4:9 (ESV)
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

John Calvin noted that we are moved to repentance not by the threat of God’s law but by the promise of his grace. The threat of the law will only make us run from God, unless we know that he will receive us when we turn back to him in repentance.

I read a story told by Dr. Robert Schuller. He was invited on a mission trip to the wilds of the Amazon. A missionary had been working with a tribe that had a great fear of white people, having had little positive contact with them. Schuller and the missionary trekked further and further into the jungle with no sighting of this reclusive tribe. “Where are they?” Schuller asked. The missionary replied, “They’re all around us, but they won’t come out until they know it’s safe.”

Finally, the travelers arrived at a clearing. The missionary said, “Here’s what you have to do. Sit on the ground, stretch out your hands, and smile.” So that’s what Schuller did. For what seemed hours, he sat and smiled with outstretched hands. At last, a single native crept silently out of the jungle and shyly touched Schuller’s hand.

On the cross, God, in effect, stretched out his hands and smiled, showing that he loves us. Only the cross has the power to draw sinners out of the darkness of sin into the light of life.

Dear Lord, thank You for the invitation, through Jesus, to come out of the darkness into the light of Your love. Help us to believe that Your love is completely trustworthy. In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Rejoice always


1 Thessalonians 5:16 (ESV)
Rejoice always.

Our verse for today is one of the shortest in the Bible. But what a big message these two words convey!

This verse is a command, which means joy is not optional for Christians. Joyless Christians are disobedient Christians. Not only that, this verse tells us to rejoice always. But how can we possibly do that?

The main thing to consider is the source of our joy. Sometimes we’re tempted to think that the level of our joy is directly related to the situation we are in. The more pleasant our environment, the greater our joy will be. The problem with that way of thinking is that we can’t always choose or control our circumstances. Our health may decline; we may lose our job; a loved one may pass away. What’s more, there’s no guarantee that a happy environment will always produce a happy heart. The playwright George Bernard Shaw once said there are two sources of unhappiness in life: the first is not getting what you want, and the second is getting it.

The only reliable source of joy is Jesus Christ. The external realities of our lives will change, but the internal reality of having Jesus dwell in our hearts never changes.

If we stay connected to Jesus, the command to be joyful takes care of itself.

Dear Lord, help us to see our relationship with You as the most important part of our lives, and to find joy in You despite difficult circumstances. Thank You for your faithful love. In the Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

God's garden


Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

It’s interesting how often the Bible uses the imagery of gardening or fruitfulness to describe believers in Christ. The Old Testament prophets described God’s people as a garden or vineyard (Isaiah 5; Ezekiel 19). In the Psalms, the faithful believer is compared to a tree planted by water, yielding its fruit in season (Psalm 1).

Jesus himself spoke of the human heart being like hard soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, and good soil for the seed of God’s Word to grow in (Mark 4). He also talked about himself as a vine, and he said believers are like its branches that bear fruit (John 15).

Paul writes about spiritual fruit as well—“the fruit of the Spirit.” God chose these pictures of gardening and farming to describe the life of a believer because they help us see the style of the Holy Spirit’s work in our life. The Spirit’s work in us is a process—a budding, blossoming, ripening, growing, maturing process like that of a viny plant or fruit tree. Once we belong to Jesus by faith, the Spirit begins a lifelong process of spiritual growth within us!

Dear Lord, thank You for Your Son, Jesus, who gives us life in a way like a vine supplies life to its branches. Thank You for working in us by Your Holy Spirit for Jesus sake. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The gift of hope


Proverbs 13:12 (ESV)
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Is there hope? Have you ever asked parents who just buried a teenage daughter? Or a man diagnosed with cancer? Or someone in the grip of depression?

Not only is hope a basic ingredient in life; it is the hunger of every human heart. Someone said, “Keep hoping; you keep living. Stop hoping; you die—inside.”

What is the hope that enables people to go on living, even when things go terribly wrong?

For the Christian, it begins with the vision that Jesus rules the world today; Christ’s rule calls for making all things right so that everyone can live fully, as God intends. This hope leads to the passion that everyone will know God’s love and forgiveness and Jesus’ victory over sin and death. And this hope is revealed in mission—bringing the joyful light of Jesus into every dark corner of this world, especially into people’s hearts.

Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He is the one way to hope and full life!

If we know this is true, can we put this hope aside and keep it to ourselves, knowing that many will never know the way to true life and peace? That would be a strange response to the hope-filled vision, passion, and mission of Jesus himself.

Can you confess this hope: “In Christ alone my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song”?

Dear Lord, thank You for shining the light of Your grace into the darkness of our soul. Continue to fill us with Your hope so that we may share it with others.  In the Name of Jesus,  Amen.

Monday, January 20, 2020

He knows our deeds


Revelation 2:2 (ESV)

I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.


Do you ever feel that the work you do is unseen or at least unacknowledged? How about your service as a believer and as part of the church of Jesus? In reality, Jesus knows exactly what’s happening in church communities—he even knows them better than they know themselves.

In this personal letter to the church in Ephesus, Jesus reveals how close he is to this community of believers. He identifies himself as the One who “holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands.” In a figurative way, Jesus expresses that he holds these communities in the grip of his hand. And he walks around in the midst of these churches.

This is a picture of Jesus intentionally being close to each congregation. Jesus is so close that he knows us in all our ways.

Jesus knew the church in Ephesus, and he begins this letter with rich compliments. He says this church has been a guardian of the truth. False teachers and false teachings found no foothold there. Perseverance in the truth defined this church.

Jesus could say, “I know you, and I know all you are doing for me!” He says this about your church too. Jesus knows everyone in your church community because he holds you all in the grip of his hand and continues to walk where your church serves.

Dear Lord, forgive us if we have supposed that you confine yourself to heaven. Thank you for loving each of us and your church communities. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Rest


Psalm 23:2-3 (ESV)
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.

Whether we’re traveling or just making it to the end of a busy week, it’s probably time for some weekend rest and relaxation. God calls us to stop and rest at least once a week, so we can take a break from our everyday work and busyness, so we can gather with his people for worship, so we can have a time of communion with God and with other believers. This helps to refresh and restore our souls.

In Psalm 23 we meet the good shepherd who cares for his sheep. A shepherd does this so that his sheep may produce an abundance of precious and useful wool. Yet sheep are not always cooperative—they are apt to devour pastureland and grub for unhealthy weeds. Sheep that graze in green pastures and drink from clean water have been led there by a good shepherd. We have a good shepherd in the person of Jesus Christ (see John 10:11-18).

We may at times feel tired and lost, and our minds or bodies may be polluted with unhealthy things. At times we may even feel forsaken by God, as David expressed in Psalm 22:1.

So we must listen to the voice of the good shepherd. Jesus will bring us to the green pastures of his Word and to the living water that only he can provide (John 4:10-14). He will bring restoration and healing to our lives.

Dear Lord, we are sorry that we have not always cared for our physical or spiritual lives the way we should. Lead us to the green pastures of Your Word and to the living water found in You, our shepherd and Savior. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

What does your heart treasure?


Matthew 6:20-21 (ESV)
20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

At the deepest part of our being lies a longing. A hope. A dream. Something more important to us than anything else. Whatever it is that we treasure most, we will build our lives on it. Whether it is our job, our wealth, our standing in the community, our looks, or something else, we will go to great lengths to gain this treasure. Money and wealth are particularly dazzling treasures that hypnotize many into chasing after its false promises and empty security.

Sadly, much of what we treasure is like a mist. Some treasures are gone in an instant, and others slip away over a lifetime. But only one treasure lasts forever. Jesus wants to be the treasure of our hearts. He wants to be the unrivaled Master that we serve wholeheartedly.

The way to be free from chasing worldly treasures is through worship. In worship we treasure the infinite value of Jesus, who gave his life for us. In worship we delight in the goodness and mercy of our God. We set our hearts on the beauty of our Savior, who loved us when we were unlovable.

When our hearts treasure Jesus through prayer, meditation, song, and Scripture, we are reoriented to what is truly priceless for us. We make an investment that will last forever.

What does your heart treasure?

Dear Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth. Since you treasured us first, help us to treasure you as the Lord and Master of our lives. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

To lie or not to lie


Exodus 20:16 (ESV)
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Some people believe that lying is only a problem if you really hurt someone--or if you get caught. But God doesn't see it that way. God cares about the truth because our relationships depend on it. Like God, Christians believe that honesty is very important.

Of course, being honest is not the same as saying everything you think. If you don't like something, or you believe a comment someone made is pretty foolish, you don't necessarily have to say so. There are also times when telling the whole truth can cause too much hurt.

I remember reading about people who hid Jews from harm in World War II and lied about it when German soldiers asked them. In that situation, the effect of deception was more in line with God's intention for relationships and caring for others.

But rare exceptions shouldn't blind us to God's basic demand for honesty in relationships. If I am going to relate to you in a loving way, I need to be able to count on you for the truth. If I can't, I will feel manipulated, become suspicious, distrust your word, and eventually become alienated from you.

Lying changes more than the facts; it also changes the liar. If I lie to you, I erode our relationship, whether or not you know I lied. Lying to God does the same thing. The only difference is that God already knows.

Dear Lord, even though we may be solidly against outright lies, it's hard at times not to be deceptive. Help us to honor others with honesty and to speak the truth in love. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.