Monday, January 31, 2011

A Mother's Influence

As her son was about to leave home for college, his mother asked, “Robert, will you promise me one thing?”

“Yes, ma’am, I will,” he answered.

“Promise me,” she begged, “that you will read one chapter from the Bible each day.”

“I will,” he agreed.

That promise led to his coming to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Later, Robert Moffat went to Africa as a missionary where he labored for his Lord for forty-five years. He became famous as an educator, explorer, evangelist and translator of the Bible.

What better request can any mother ask of a child than to be faithful in reading God’s Word while attending college. Students are confronted from every direction with challenges to their faith, tempted by friends to engage in behaviors that cause self-destruction, provided with endless opportunities that may destroy the plans God has for them.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul expressed a true sense of urgency and warning for him. He knew that people who believed in God would be misunderstood, challenged and tempted because of their faith. So Paul encouraged him to remain faithful to what he had been taught, because God’s Word is the only faithful guide.

Prayer: Father, parents have such a responsibility in raising their children. Grant them Your wisdom, always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:12-16

Friday, January 28, 2011

Steps In The Right Direction

Our feet contain 26 bones and more than 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. Most of us will walk about 65,000 miles and take about 125 million steps. That’s enough to make anyone tired just thinking about such a journey.

We are all concerned about life’s journey. Each morning when we awaken, we have no guarantee of what might happen or where we will be when night falls.

The writer of the first Psalm declared, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand with sinners or join in with scoffers.” Clearly we are urged to avoid friendships or even to associate with those who do not honor God because of the influence they may have on us. Friends who do not encourage us in our walk with God may bring about an indifference to the plan and purpose that God has for our lives. Often the ones we associate with have an enormous influence on our attitudes. And we must always be aware of the fact that our attitudes shape our behavior.

The author also describes the benefit of those who walk a godly path: the Lord will watch over them. What a comforting thought for the believer to realize that every one of those steps in each of the many miles will have “the Lord watching over them.” When we walk with Him, we have the promise of His presence and His power to protect us and provide for our every need.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to know and obey Your Word so that we may count on strength for the journey. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 1

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How Could This Happen?

A man was found dead next to a dumpster. As they looked in his pockets for his identification, they discovered several checks. They were worth more than a thousand dollars. But they did him no good. He never cashed them to receive their value.

As we read God’s Word, we find promise after promise - all having value to the believer. But as the checks, they must be “turned into cash” to have any value. We must go to God and claim His promises to meet our needs.

James said that God “does not resent your asking. But when you ask Him, be sure you really expect Him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea…”

There are times when it is easier to believe in God than it is to believe in the fact that He deeply cares for each of us and our every need. Surely, if He is bound by His Word, we can go to Him “in faith believing.” We must always remember that nothing is so small that it escapes His concern or that any problem is so large that He cannot solve it.

We limit God by the limitations we place on Him. The problems we have with our faith are our problems - not God’s. “Whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you,” said Jesus.

Prayer: Give us a faith, Father, that is larger than our problems and a trust that matches Your power. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: James 1:1-8

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Where Am I Going?

A well-respected theologian was leaving London for a lecture series in another city. As he sat looking out the window, the conductor asked for his ticket. Searching frantically through his pockets, he discovered that he had lost it.

Wanting to be helpful, the conductor said, “It’s all right. Don’t worry.”

“No, it’s not all right,” said the passenger. “I don’t know where I’m going.”

Many have the same problem. They start on life’s journey not knowing where they are going or where or when it will end. Someone once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

Not David. He knew where to find directions. In Psalm 25 he said, “Show me the path I should walk, O Lord, point out the right road for me to follow.”

With all of his knowledge and wisdom, success and power, David still looked to the Lord for direction. He constantly looked to God for guidance no matter where he was or what he was doing. How wise!

If it was important for David to do this, how much more so for us. He realized that he needed God’s guidance. He discovered it by meditating on His Word, going to Him in prayer and listening for His voice. Instead of demanding answers, He waited for directions.

Prayer: We pray, Father, that we will look to You to lead us and guide us in paths of righteousness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 25:1-5

Monday, January 24, 2011

Where Does The Time Go?

The angry husband approached the terminal gate obviously upset that the door was closed and the plane was leaving. Turning to his wife he said, “If you hadn’t taken so long to get ready, we would be on that plane.”

“Yes,” she answered graciously, “and if you hadn’t hurried me so, we wouldn’t have to wait so long for the next one.”

Some people count their minutes rather than making their minutes count. However, we must always remember that time is a God-given gift, and once gone will never be returned. Though others may have more talents or more treasure, no one has more time. We are all given twenty-four hours each day. God gives to all equally.

Alan Lakein said that “Time is life. It is irreversible and irreplaceable. To waste your time is to waste your life, but to master your time is to master your life and make the most of it.”

David accomplished much in his life. Author, poet, musician, politician, judge, leader of an army - the list goes on and on. No doubt the reason he was able to accomplish so much was his attitude toward time. He put everything in perspective when he said, “Remember how short my time is and what a fleeting life is mine.”

Prayer: Help us, Father, to make the most of every moment, using every minute we have to honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 89:47 Remember how short my time is; For what futility have You created all the children of men?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Came With Nothing, Leave With Nothing

Alexander the Great was a Macedonian king who conquered Persia, Greece and Egypt. He was considered the “conqueror of the world.” It was the custom of his day that when a person died their hands would be wrapped so no one could see them. However, prior to his death he asked that his hands remain unwrapped. When they asked why, he replied, “I want everyone to see that they are empty.”

In his letter to Timothy, Paul said, “After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into this world, and we certainly can’t take anything with us when we die.” This is a popular verse, used by many, but accepted and followed as a guide for living by only a few - judging by the way that most of us live!

In three short verses, Paul gives some astounding advice to all of us. He begins by saying that true religion can be very valuable if it brings one contentment. Might he be saying that if we are not content with what we believe, no amount of money will bring us peace? Then he reminds us that we “can’t take it with us.” And then he concludes this bit of advice by saying, “And by the way, if you have enough food and clothing, be content. And if you are not content with what God’s given you, you will be tempted and trapped by foolish desires that bring ruin and destruction.”

Prayer: It’s easy, Lord, to want what has no eternal value. Place in our hearts a desire for what matters most. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 1 Timothy 6:6-10

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Greed

Years ago there was a pretzel stand in front of a building in New York. A generous business man wanted to help the owner. Each day he would put a quarter on the counter and walk away without taking a pretzel.

One day as he was leaving his quarter, the owner said, “Sir…”

Stopping quickly, he said, “I presume that you are going to ask me why I never take the pretzels?”

“No,” she said rather haughtily. “I just wanted to tell you that the price of the pretzels is now fifty cents.”

In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he warned them to “Put to death…evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” He asks that we consider ourselves as though we are dead and therefore unresponsive and unable to be involved in a list of sins, ending with greed. He suggests we make a conscious effort every day to remove anything in our lives that would in any way allow these desires to be present and grow and lead to our destruction. We are to rely on the Holy Spirit’s power to overcome the temptation to sin.

In these days of economic uncertainty we are much more aware of what we have and do not have. We seem to face more pressures to lay up treasures for our future on earth rather than with God. Do we rely more on what we can get from God or what we can give to God?

Prayer: Lord, give us a clear vision of what to value and protect us from desires to put “things” before You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Colossians 3:5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Great Omission

A salesman was known for keeping his hat on while he worked at his desk in his office. One day a new employee asked, “Why do you keep your hat on when you work in the building? Are you hairless?”

“No,” came the reply. “I wear it to remind myself that I ought to be out selling and ‘here less’.”

Would it be a good idea if we, as Christians, would wear hats when we watch TV, read newspapers, visit with friends, work in the yard or go shopping? Could wearing a hat remind us that there is a world waiting to hear the message of the Gospel? Might it remind us not to get too comfortable? Would it keep us from “forgetting” the Great Commission?

We place great value on the “last will and testament” of individuals. It gives exact directions for what is to be done with whatever they leave at the end of their life. Jesus did this in the Great Commission.

He said, “Go and make disciples.” They were not to be satisfied because they had a relationship with Him. Nor were they to be complacent with the teachings He left in their hands and hearts.
The “command” to go did not end with the disciples. His voice still echoes across the centuries to those of us today who are His disciples. We are to “go and make disciples” wherever we are, whenever we can.

Prayer: We often fail, Lord, in doing what You have commanded us to do. Forgive us for failing to honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 28:18-20

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Let Go And Let God

An elderly man was taken for his very first plane ride. When it was over and he was safely on the ground his wife asked him, “Well, Sam, how did you like that?”

“Pretty good,” came the reply. “Only problem was that I couldn’t let all of my weight down on the seat and relax.”

Sometimes we as Christians have difficulty in laying down or letting go of the burdens we carry. While we may have many excuses, there is no real reason why we cannot let go of our fears and failures, problems and pressures and trust the Lord.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

The burdens we carry are not normally physical ones, but spiritual or emotional ones.

There are times when we fear that our sins may not have been forgiven because we believe that they are too horrible for God’s grace and mercy. But we are promised that “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Perhaps we become fearful that we are not doing enough for God or have missed His will for our lives. Again, the verse echoes in our ears, “If you become humble…pray…seek…turn…I will forgive.” God’s willingness and ability are as good as His Word. Let go!

Prayer: Help us, heavenly Father, to take You at Your word, and to cast all of our cares on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 11:28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Make A Wish

A college freshman, small in stature, wanted to be a member of the football team. He reported for the first practice, went to the coach and asked to try out for the team. Not wanting to discourage him, the coach agreed. He gave him the football and said, “I want you to run toward the goal while these two linemen chase you.”

Tucking the ball under his arm, he ran as fast as he could. Soon, one of the linemen grabbed his right leg and he began to fall. Then the other one grabbed his left leg and he fell to the ground. As he lay there, one said, “Make a wish.”

That’s when he decided to quit.

There were many times in the life of the Apostle Paul that he faced overwhelming odds; times when it appeared that he would be “torn apart.” But he never gave up or quit.

When he was enduring his final imprisonment in Rome and awaiting his trial, he did not know if he would be released or executed. Rather than being filled with fear, he demonstrated his faith in God. So, he prayed that when he stood trial he would speak courageously for Christ and not be ashamed. “For I live in eager expectation and hope that I will never do anything that causes me shame, but that I will always be bold for Christ.” What faith. What trust. What courage.

Prayer: Father, may we like Paul have the boldness and courage to face adversity with courage and trust. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Philippians 1:19-21

Friday, January 14, 2011

Encouraging Children

A large cathedral was having its beautiful, hand carved doors replaced with ones that were lighter and easier to open. A gentleman walking by the church stopped and asked the foreman the reason for changing the doors.

“Because,” came the reply, “they are too heavy for children. No church should have doors that are too difficult for children to open.”

Jesus set the example for us to follow in our relationships with children. He said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!”

What a precious picture of Jesus - perhaps one of the most important in the Gospels. He was the kind of person whom children loved. George MacDonald said, “People could never be followers of Jesus if the children were afraid of Him.” The love He spoke of must have been obvious to everyone who saw Him. He was never too busy to be interrupted or too tired to be disturbed. He gave His all to everyone who needed Him.

Jesus also seemed to say that children were nearer to God than anyone else because of their trust and truthfulness, simplicity and sincerity. As we age, we seem to grow further from God rather than closer. Might we learn from this and ask God for a childlike faith?

Prayer: Help us, Father, to live lives that attract the young, the old, and everyone in between who need You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 19:13-15

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Where They Belong

Once I asked an appliance repairman to come to church with me. “No,” he responded. “The church is full of hypocrites.”

“Great!” I responded. The man was startled. Continuing, I said, “That’s exactly where they belong. Let’s join them. I’m sure they won’t mind.”

If I understand it correctly, a hypocrite is a someone who says one thing and does another. Or as a friend said to me, “A hypocrite is a person who does not walk their talk. They profess what they do not possess.”

Many who do not want to attend church say the reason they refuse to do so is because the church is full of hypocrites. For as long as I can remember that has been a frequent excuse of many. As I see it, it is a great reason for them to attend! They already know the difference between the saved and the unsaved. The saved are expected to behave like Jesus and the person who says he sees hypocrisy in Christians already knows what is expected of the born again.

We need to extend a warm welcome to those who use “the hypocrite excuse” as a reason not to attend church. Jesus said that He came to call sinners to be saved. Those who believe that they are already good enough will have a difficult time to admit they are sinners. But the hypocrite already knows his need.

Prayer: Lord, help me to live a life that will be an example, not an excuse, for people to seek You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Luke 19:10: for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One Way

The famous entertainer, W.C. Fields, was an agnostic. One day, a friend came to visit him and found him reading the Bible.

“Bill,” he exclaimed, “it’s good to see that you are reading the Bible. When did you change and become a Christian?”

“I haven’t changed,” he replied quickly. “I’m looking for some loopholes.”

No matter how hard he might search, he will never discover a loophole in God’s Word.

There are many who do the same thing. They do not study God’s Word to learn of His salvation and grace. They read it looking for errors and omissions.

Others have difficulty in accepting God’s Word as the one final authority for truth. They do not want to believe that there is no other name besides the name of Jesus that they can call upon for salvation. This fact did not come from the church or any religious movement. It is a promise of God found in His Word.

God designated Jesus to be the only Redeemer and Savior. There never has been nor ever will be any other name for people to call upon for salvation. While there are some problems that may have more than one solution, when it comes to being forgiven of sin, there is only One. Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ.

Prayer: Thank You Father, for Your Son Jesus, in whose name and through His work we find salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Acts 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Searching Everywhere

The phone rang and a small child answered it softly. “Hello,” he said barely above a whisper.

“Hello,” came the response. “Is your mother home?”

“Yes,” came the reply, “but she’s busy.”

“Well,” wondered the caller, “Is your father home?”

“Yes,” he said, “but he’s busy, too.”

“They are both busy? What are they doing?” asked the salesman.

“They’re looking for me,” he whispered.

What a picture of our Savior! He said, “I, the Son of Man, have come to seek and save the lost!”

This verse comes at the end of the story of Zaccheaus. Sometimes we focus on the different facts in the story: he was very short, the Son of Abraham, he was a very influential man, and he was an unpopular tax collector. None of this actually mattered to Jesus.

What did matter to Jesus, then and now, is that a person is not saved because of his family, his wealth, influence in the community, his appearance or his previous way of life. It is only through faith in the Son of Man that the lost can be forgiven and be made new.

In one verse Jesus summarized His entire mission: to seek and to save the lost. Wherever they are, whatever they have done, Jesus is still seeking the lost.

Prayer: Lord, we may have much, but You ask little except that we, in faith, accept You as our Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Luke 19:10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Unseen Power

A snowflake is a remarkable object in size and shape. Sometimes they appear as though they are floating through space. Other times they arrive in force and fury. Occasionally they fall on an eyelash and can be seen but not felt. They are a weightless wonder until they are massed together. Then, they can provide a beautiful country scene or bring a city to a complete halt. Snowflakes give us a unique picture of the strength and power of numbers. What a lesson for the church!

From the very beginning God has intended for His followers to come together for strength and power. We find throughout Scripture that a community of believers can accomplish much more than an individual acting on his own behalf. God established the church and empowered it with the Holy Spirit to spread the gospel and provide strength, hope and encouragement to its members.

When a Christian feels lonely or deserted, afraid or abandoned, overwhelmed or overpowered, the church is to be a refuge for healing hearts and holding hands. God wants the church to provide comfort and care, give purpose and power, provide protection and peace to all who seek His love, grace and mercy. Within the church believers can link their lives together to offer protection from sin and work together as God’s witness to the world.

Prayer: Lord, may our church be faithful to accomplish Your purpose as we worship, work and witness together. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Here And Hereafter

Two elderly ladies were sitting on the porch rocking and talking the day away. Said one to the other, “Sally, do you ever think of the hereafter?”

“All the time,” came the reply. “Every time I go into a different room I look around and say to myself, ‘What did I come here after?’”

An amusing little story that we can use to remind ourselves of one of life’s most important realities: while we live in this world, we must prepare for the next. Many live as though this life will never end or that the next one will never begin. There is a tombstone that reads: “I lived all of my life expecting this - but not this soon.”

We all marvel at the persistence and power, the determination and drive that the Apostle Paul had in presenting the message of salvation. His audience would change, his location would change, his conditions would change. But one thing never changed: “The necessity of turning from sin and turning to God, and having faith in our Lord Jesus.”

This message is not only for the unsaved, but for the saved as well. There is that one moment in life when we turn our lives over to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. But there must be many other moments when we confess our sins and prepare to meet the Lord our God!

Prayer: We thank You, Lord, for our salvation. Help us, we pray, to live life knowing we may soon meet You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Acts 20:21 ...testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Who's On The Lord's Side?

Years ago when Italy went to war there was a shortage of soldiers. To find recruits, one captain went through some of the villages calling men to fight with him. Many joined him, bringing their own weapons into combat.

One elderly lady was so moved by the sight that she got her broom, placed it on her shoulder and began to march with them.

Many of the soldiers laughed at her. One looked at her and asked, “What good are you, old lady?”

“Not much,” she replied, “but I want everyone to know whose side I’m on!”

Life requires many choices. But there is no more important choice for each of us than to let the world know whose side we are on. Joshua said, “So honor the Lord and serve Him whole heartedly.” He challenged the people to declare their allegiance to God because He had proven His trustworthiness to them.

From simple to significant, we make many choices each day. Not being able to see the future or knowing which direction our lives may take, we must put our trust in the One who does. We must listen to the Lord as He speaks to us through His Word. When we do, it will be easier to make the right choices. Especially if we are on the Lord’s side and draw upon His strength.

Prayer: Lord, may we live our lives letting those around us see the depth of our commitment to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Joshua 24:14,15

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Conscious Of Our Conscience

While managing the Washington Senators, Gil Hodges learned that four of his players had violated the team curfew. Calling the team together he said, “I know that four of you have violated the team curfew, and I know who you are. Now, I don’t want to make this an issue, but you know the penalty for doing that. So I am going to leave a box on my desk and you guilty ones put your hundred dollars in the box and we’ll drop the matter. I want to see $400 in that box in the morning!” The next morning there were eight one-hundred dollar bills in the box.

Our conscience is one of God’s greatest gifts. If we live according to His Word, it enables us to distinguish right from wrong, good from bad, the sacred from the secular.

Paul said that he took “pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man.” He lived his life in constant awareness that one day there would be a resurrection followed by a judgment of both the just and unjust. He refused to be found doing anything that would dishonor His Lord and Savior.

There are many instances in the writings of Paul where he talked about his final accounting before God. He lived his life constantly reminding himself and others of that fact. Perhaps we would do well to do the same.

Prayer: Father, may we live life in light of eternity, always realizing that You will judge us all on that day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Acts 24:16 This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Spine And A Spirit

Kenneth was a shy eight year old who loved to read. On one occasion his Sunday school teacher asked him to read part of the story of Daniel. In reading one of the verses, he accidentally read “an exceptional spine was within him” rather than “an excellent spirit was within him.” Both words, however, clearly describe Daniel.

Daniel was recognized for his wise insight, great wisdom and prophetic visions. As he rose to power and prestige with the king, the other palace administrators became jealous of his privileged position. In their effort to get rid of Daniel, they were successful in persuading the king to outlaw prayer. It did not matter to Daniel and rather than giving in to pressure he continued to pray to the Lord, his God.

We all recall with pleasure the amazing miracle God performed by protecting him when he was thrown into the den of hungry lions. God was with him and guarded him against any harm. Daniel was faithful to God and God was faithful to him and blessed him.

Daniel was able to “show his exceptional spine” every time he was challenged to surrender to the demands of a sinful world. It was the “excellent spirit” that came from his relationship with God that gave him his “exceptional spine” knowing that God was sovereign.

Prayer: Father, give me a faith that will not flinch and a spine that will not shrink when tempted to compromise. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Daniel 6:3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm.