Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Strength For The Journey

“Why are you sitting there just staring off into space?” one friend asked another.

“Well, this year has been awful. It’s the worst year that I can ever remember. Nothing’s gone right and it seems that everything’s gone wrong. So I’m trying to figure out what was the worst thing that happened. But there’s too much competition for first place.”

Call them what you will: Misfortunes or mishaps, troubles or trials, adversities or afflictions. They are part of all of our lives and no one is immune to them.

But some seem to get through them, over them or around them better than others. Does their strength come from a superior source? Do they have a resource to call upon that is unavailable to the rest of us?

There is a story of the men of Judah standing before the Lord with their little ones. Suddenly, the spirit of the Lord came on one of the men. The message that came to him to give to the others was simple: “Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. Go out there tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”

All Christians have God’s Spirit in them Who can work through them. If we stand firm in our faith and ask for God’s help, He will fight the battle for us and triumph.

Prayer: Lord, when adversity tries to stare us down, may we look up to You to save and sustain us. Amen.

Scripture: 2 Chronicles 20:13-17

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Straight Lines Or Stray Lines?

The class was asked to draw a picture of the home where they lived. Bobbie quickly began his work and was finished before everyone else.

Noticing that he had completed his assignment, his teacher came to review his picture.

“Bobbie,” she said as she pointed to his paper, “the roof line isn’t straight.”

“No, it isn’t,” he admitted, “but that doesn’t matter. I can fix that later.”

Respectfully she picked up his drawing and said carefully, “A straight line never needs to be fixed!”

How easy it is to live life in a hurry, leaving many crooked lines behind us. We convince ourselves that we’ll correct them later on. Often we leave things undone or incomplete, thinking there is always another day, another time, another place, another opportunity to do things right.

But the Christian must always attempt to do the right things right - the first time. That’s why God has given us His Word. In it, we find the directions on how He expects us to live and the promise that He is with us personally. And that promise assures us that He will give us the strength and power to live according to His rules and not need to make unnecessary corrections.

Prayer: Help me, O Lord, to follow all of Your rules and principles with all my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Psalm 119:30-38

Monday, December 27, 2010

Review And Renew

Jeanie was hurrying into the ice cream store, one of her special places. At the door, her pastor greeted her with a warm smile. “What are you going to get?” he asked.

“A chocolate milkshake!” she relied.

“Have you ever thought about giving that money to our church instead of buying ice cream?” he asked.

“Yes,” she replied quickly. “But I’ll just get the ice cream and let the people who own the store give the money to the church. That way they can get the credit for giving it to God.”

Many of us place a great value on things that have no lasting value, eternally speaking. Our hobbies and habits, pleasures and pastimes often interfere with what really matters. “Let’s let others do things for God.”

With a stroke of his pen Peter gives us a stern warning: “Since everything around us will one day be dissolved or disappear, what kind of lives should you be living?”

It is easy to live in the present and not focus on our future with the Lord. But we must plan for the day when we will be living in the presence of God. Let’s carefully review this year and plan wisely for the next.

Prayer: We ask Lord, that You will direct our minds and hearts to seek the things that are eternal. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Scripture: 2 Peter 3:11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Approaching Retirement

During a company planning meeting, the president asked the personnel director, “How many employees do we have that are approaching retirement?”

“All of them, sir,” was the reply. Then he continued, “We have no one going in the opposite direction.”

Life on earth is fleeting. We look back on years past and recall doing the same things that children do today - playing favorite games and enjoying special events. Suddenly we find ourselves grown and aging, facing the same problems and issues that all elderly folk do. In what seems like a passing moment, the gray hair begins to appear, wrinkles develop almost overnight and erase the smooth skin of youth.

We get closer to eternity with every beat of our hearts. As someone had inscribed on their tombstone, “I expected this, but not quite so soon.”

That is why God has made it possible for us to live forever in eternity with Him. Through His Son, He bought eternal life for each of us. What greater gift can He offer us. “God so loved...that He gave...that we might have...eternal life!”

Prayer: Father, help us to realize the shortness of life, the certainty of death and the gift of eternal life through Your Son, our Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Hebrews 9:27-28

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Anywhere You Choose

A tourist traveling through a small mountain town stopped for gas. Sitting near the entrance to the store was a man watching his every move. Wanting to be friendly, he asked, “Is your town famous for anything?”

“Oh yes,” came the quick reply. “You can go anywhere from here.”

One of the final statements of Jesus to His followers was the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

The last words anyone speaks or writes may be the most important for us to hear. Certainly, these words of Jesus are. He expected everyone, everywhere to hear the Gospel. What He did was for whoever, wherever; then, now and tomorrow.

Wherever we are, no matter what we are doing, we are “commissioned” to make disciples. It is not an option for us to consider. It is our obligation to fulfill.

While we may not see ourselves as evangelists, we are directed by our Savior to evangelize. God has given each of skills and abilities to serve Him and win the lost. As we accept this responsibility, we can take comfort in the fact that He is always with us, even to the end. We can take His message “anywhere from here.”

Prayer: Help us, Father, to be faithful, obedient witnesses to Your Word, taking Your Message to the world. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Scripture: Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Excuse The Interruption

A science teacher was reviewing the previous days reading assignment. “Class, I want someone to explain to me what happens when your body is immersed in water.”

From the back of the room, one student smartly replied, “The phone rings!”

Interruptions! We can allow them to be an irritation to our plans or an opportunity to serve God.
Wherever Jesus went He was constantly interrupted by individuals needing something. Once while Jesus was traveling from Jericho to Jerusalem, He was approached by one of the many beggars who existed by pleading for help. The beggar called to Jesus for “mercy” and when Jesus heard his cry, He invited him into His presence. When Jesus asked him what he wanted he simply said, “I want to see.” And Jesus replied, “Go. Your faith has healed you.”

Often when we are “on our way and doing our thing” people interrupt us for one thing or another. When it is someone we care for or one whom we feel deserves our attention, we gladly pause and offer help.

It is easy to overlook those who are beneath us or undeserving. But when we understand the fullness of God’s love to us, we welcome the opportunity to serve.

Prayer: Lord, help us to do what You would do when we have an opportunity to help others. In Your name, Amen.

Scripture: Mark 10:46-52

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Group Photo

It was her first day at her new job. Her boss spent several hours acquainting her with all of the company policies and procedures. Finally he thought is was time to talk about himself so she would know what kind of person he was.

He spoke proudly of his successes as an athlete. Then he talked at great length of his ability as a dancer. After dancing came the lengthy description of his outstanding career in sales, winning every company award. Finally he described his military experience, detailing every duty station and assignment. He talked more about himself than her job.

Finally, when he ended his bragging she asked, “Have you ever had a group photograph taken of yourself?”

Pride is the result of thinking too highly of one’s self. It is being overly concerned with what we have accomplished, believing that we are not getting the recognition that we deserve. What matters most is not the recognition we get from others, but from the Lord. It is far better to be honored by God for being faithful to His Word, blessed by serving Him in silence or humbly obeying His every command than being praised in the largest assembly the world has ever known.

Prayer: Help, me Lord, to clothe myself with humility, so that my life is all about You, not me. Amen.

Scripture: 1 Peter 5:5, 6

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Wonderful Dog

Each night in his prayers, young James prayed for a dog. One day a dog followed him home from school and he thought it was the answer to his prayers. “Mom,” he said joyously, “didn’t God give me a wonderful dog?”

Shaking her head, his mother responded, “No! He’s nothing but a flea-bitten bag of bones that smells awful.”

Putting his arms around the dog’s neck he said in a loving voice, “But, Mom, look how beautifully he wags his tail.”

Most individuals determine beauty by physical characteristics or traits. “It’s what’s on the outside that counts,” is what many would say. Early in life we are taught what is attractive and what is not and to recognize and honor the external. But God sees things differently.

Fortunately for us, the Lord does not make decisions the way we do. He judges us by our faith and character, purity and humility. First and foremost He looks on the inside and sees us as we actually are. That is why I need to spend more time with Him. Everyone sees my outside, but only the two us, me and God, can see my heart. What do you and God see in your heart.

Prayer: Lord, You have saved me to reflect the beauty of Christ to others in this world. May my life always be attractive to others because of You. Amen.

Scripture: 1 Samuel 16:7

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Growth Is A Choice

The Japanese bonsai is a beautiful but small tree. Most grow no larger than eighteen inches tall.

The California sequoia is beautiful but large. Some grow over 275 feet tall.

When the young bonsai peeks its small head above the ground, its caretakers tie the taproot and its growth is stunted. Its size is limited by design. The sequoia, on the other hand, has a different destiny. Its growth is stimulated by the minerals in the soil, the rain and the sun. The bonsai and the sequoia have no choice in determining their growth. But we do.

In writing his second letter to the young churches, Peter begins and ends his message encouraging believers to “grow” in the special favor and knowledge that comes from knowing their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He reminds them that they can know Him better and grow into His likeness.

No matter where we are in our spiritual journey, no matter how long we have been walking with the Lord, no matter what level of spiritual maturity we have achieved in our faith, there is still room for growth. We will always be challenged by matters that relate to our faith. But we will always have the opportunity to grow.

Prayer: Father, let us realize that the choice to grow into Your likeness is ours. May we choose to become more like You each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's In A Name?

At the end of the War Between the States, General Robert E. Lee was without a job. He was presented with two offers that had received his attention more than all the others. One offer was from a small college that could only assure him of a salary that would meet his basic needs. The other offer was from a great insurance company that would provide him with a large salary.

When this offer was presented to him, he was told by the leaders of the insurance company, “You really won’t need to work. We just want your name.”

“But,” Lee protested, “my name’s not for sale!”

Lee decided to accept the presidency of the college and he led Washington College into becoming one of the greatest educational institutions of his day. At his death they renamed it Washington and Lee University.

We find some great advice in the Book of Proverbs. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” Though wisdom may enable a person to achieve much prosperity, the rewards that matter most come from righteousness and kindness. In the end, they have more value than all the wealth in the world.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach us to make wise decisions that always honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, Loving favor rather than silver and gold.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Do Dollars Make A Difference?

A banker was stopped by a beggar who convinced him that he was worth some money. After giving him $10.00, the beggar said, “I envy you!”

“Why? I have my troubles, too,” said the banker.

“Yes,” said the beggar, “you may have some troubles. But I ain’t got nothin’ else.”

It is good to have money. It is neither good nor bad - but something we can use to acquire the things of life. It can buy us many objects that are enjoyable and make life comfortable.

Nor does God want us to live without money. But He does warn us about falling in love with money because of what the love of money can do to our spirituality. Loving money can erode our dependence on Him and bring an attitude of greed and envy into our lives. When this happens, we become slaves to a never-ending desire to accumulate things that are an end in themselves. We learn from God’s Word that money is to be used to honor God, not take His place.

Money cannot buy us the hope that we have in Christ, the peace that comes from God or the comfort of the Holy Spirit that warms our hearts and can change our lives.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to trust You to meet our every need through the riches of Christ. In Your name, Amen.

Scripture: Philippians 4:19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Importance Of Encouragement

Jackie Robinson was the first African-American to play for a major league baseball team. Although he eventually became highly respected for his many accomplishments, he had a difficult time breaking the “color-barrier.” Wherever he played, he had to prove himself again and again. The crowds enjoyed jeering him game after game.

Once while playing in a critical game, he committed an error. The fans immediately began to boo and ridicule him. Standing at second base, tears filled his eyes.

Suddenly, Pee Wee Reese walked over to where he was standing and put his arm around him, and faced the crowd. Suddenly the booing and jeering ended.

Later, Jackie Robinson said, “That arm around my shoulder saved my career!”

When “e” is placed next to “n” it forms “en” - which means “to give to” or “to cause.” And when we put the letters before “courage” it means that we “give to” or “cause” others to have courage. When we encourage others we show them understanding and compassion, and give them inspiration and strength, hope and help.

Prayer: Lord, all around us are the beaten and broken, discouraged and downhearted. Give us no peace until we comfort their pain. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Acts 11:23 When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"I Forgive You!"

There are certain missionaries who are well known for certain strengths or accomplishments. Some are known for their work or witness. Others are known for translating Scripture, some for being martyred.

Corrie ten Boom and her sister, Betsie, were known for being prisoners of war in the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. While there, they were brutally beaten and shamefully treated. But they endured, were released and returned to serving the Lord.

One evening after speaking to a large audience a man approached her. She recalled the man rather vividly. Immediately she recognized him as the guard who treated her very cruelly.

“I was a guard at Ravensbruck,” he said, with head bowed. “But I have become a Christian. God has forgiven me, but will you?”

Weeping she said, “I forgive you with all my heart!”

Forgiveness is both horizontal and vertical. It is not only something that God grants us, but something He expects us to grant to others. God forgives because of Who He is, not who we are. If we are truly forgiven, then we will be willing to forgive others.

Prayer: Help us, Heavenly Father, to show our gratefulness for Your forgiveness by forgiving others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Secret Of Sin

A famous author, known for his skepticism, accepted an invitation to attend a revival meeting. At the end of the sermon the speaker extended an invitation for individuals to accept Christ and turn from their sins. His friend asked if he wanted to turn from his sins to the Savior.

Immediately he responded, “No. I like my sins. I enjoy them!” Sadly, he echoes the feelings of many.

God has given each of us the power of choice. In doing so, we are free to choose between two masters: sin or Jesus Christ. Each “master” has a plan for our lives. One Master assures us of the presence and power of Christ in our lives, knowing that He is with us and for us, protecting us and giving us His peace and comfort in troubled times. He also gives us His Word that we will be with Him throughout eternity, where we will rejoice in the glory of God’s grace and mercy.

The other master gives his followers a gift as well. It is the gift of enslavement - a gift that takes away our freedom and the right to an abundant life. The Bible tells us that sin is a sickness of the soul that leads to physical and spiritual destruction, eventually death and eternal damnation.

We have a choice to make: Life or death.

Prayer: Father, open our hearts to accept Your Son to become our Savior, In His Name, Amen.

Scripture: Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It's As Big As We Want It To Be!

He was deeply in love with his fiancée, and saved as much money he could to buy her a beautiful engagement ring. Finally, he took his savings to the jeweler and bought the biggest diamond he could afford.

As he presented it to her he said, “I’m sorry dear, that is it not bigger. It’s all that I had.”

“It’s perfect,” she shouted in her excitement. “It is as big as we make it!”

What a beautiful response. Sincerity is much more important than size, and thoughtfulness more than any “thing.” Size had nothing to do with our salvation. Our salvation depended on Someone’s sacrifice.

If we want more from God, we must give more to God. That’s His way. And He invites us to make His way, our way. “Give and it will be given to you,” Jesus said.

When we share our time, He will increase our talents so we can do more. When we share our treasures, He will make up the difference - and then some. When we share our strength, He will enable us reach far beyond the limits we place on ourselves. But we must give in faith, believing and trusting that He will provide for our every need in ways we never imagined.

Prayer: Help us, Heavenly Father, to have enough faith to trust, knowing that You will never fail us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Colossians 3:14-25

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Not My Fault

“How did you happen to hit the other car?” the judge asked sternly.

“Well, Your Honor,” the defendant replied timidly, “it’s actually my wife’s fault. She always tells me how to drive and she happened to fall asleep in the back seat and no one told me where I was supposed to drive.”

Blaming others for our mistakes is as old as history. It started with Adam and Eve and continues to this day. When God asked Adam about his sin, he immediately blamed Eve. Then, Eve blamed the serpent. Not only did Adam blame Eve, but he even included God in his defense. “It was the woman You gave me that made me do it.” Eve followed by saying, “The serpent tricked me and that’s why I ate it.” Ever since then, “the devil made me do it” is our defense.

God knew the truth then and He knows the truth now. He did not accept their excuses then and He will not accept our excuses now. His Word clearly says, “Each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

Whoever excuses himself accuses himself. Whenever we break God’s laws and sin, we must be ready to admit what we have done and confess our sin to God. For “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us!”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, trouble our minds and convict our hearts of our sins. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Scripture: Genesis 3:8-19