Monday, February 28, 2011

Anger

While completing the last phase of his painting of THE LORD'S SUPPER, Leonardo da Vinci became annoyed with a certain man. Finally his annoyance boiled over and he lost his temper and lashed out at the man with bitter words in an angry rage.

After the man left his presence, he returned to his canvas where he had been painting the face of Christ. Try as he could, he was unable to make any progress.

Finally he put down his brushes, left his studio and hurried to the man and asked his forgiveness. Graciously the man accepted his apology. Leonardo then returned to his studio and was able to finish painting the face of our Lord.

Anger and rage are extremely destructive emotions. They take away our joy and peace and destroy our faith and trust in God. Whenever we lose control of our emotions, it is a sign that we are excluding God from His rightful place on the throne of our lives. We attempt to do His work when we try to do what He has planned for us and wants to do through us. Usually when this happens, we make matters worse and lose touch with God and the ones with whom we are angry.

Whenever we are threatened or treated unfairly we must turn to God immediately and ask for Him to take control.

Prayer: Lord, it is difficult to remain calm and peaceful when I am tested. May I look for Your help in those times. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 37:1-9

Friday, February 25, 2011

Don't Blame Us!

Over much opposition from members of the community, a man opened a large night club. One of the local churches came to the logical conclusion that the most important responsibility they had in the matter was to ask God to intervene and close the club. They called an all night prayer meeting and asked God to honor their request.

During the prayer meeting, lightning struck the club and it burned to the ground. The club owner, learning of the church's prayer meeting, became angry and sued the church. In the response to the law suit, the church denied all responsibility.

After hearing the case, the judge said, "Wherever the guilt may lie, the night club owner believes in prayer but the church, obviously, does not!"

What at first may appear to be humorous, may be an indictment on our faith and trust in the power of God. In His teaching on prayer, Jesus said to ask Him for "anything" and "everything" – two all-inclusive words that when taken literally and seriously, give us the right and responsibility to ask for anything that is within the will of God.

Could it be that we do not believe that God can and will answer our prayers? Do we really believe that God is listening and is willing and able to respond?

Prayer: Dear Jesus, You clearly and convincingly say that "everything is possible with God" if only we believe! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Mark 10:27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Humility Matters

It was his first day as a general. For years his one goal was to pin a star on his shoulder. Sitting behind his desk for the first time, his personal flag behind him, he felt as though he had finally arrived. He was anxious to impress his staff with his accomplishment.

There was a knock on his door, and he shouted, "Enter." He reached for his phone, and wanting to impress the men who were quietly walking into his office, said, "Thank you, Mr. President, for calling. It was good to speak with you. Yes, sir. Good bye." He then hung up the phone.

Turning to the men before him, he asked, "And now, men, what can I do for you?"

"Yes, sir, thank you, sir. I'm your aide and these men have come to connect your phone."

There is nothing wrong with wanting to succeed. But there is something wrong with wanting to succeed for selfish, self-seeking, self-centered reasons. Pride brings with it the idea that we deserve whatever we can get. It creates a greedy appetite within us and leads us to believe that we should have whatever we can get or should have whatever we want in life. It makes us want far more than we need and leaves us unsatisfied with what we have. Sometimes God has to humiliate us to teach us humility.

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to trust You for our needs, be satisfied with what we have and be thankful for Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: James 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “ God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hidden By Masks

Early in the history of Greek drama, the theaters had no scenery and the actors wore no costumes. When they performed, the actors would carry a mask on stage and when it was time for their part, they would hold the mask in front of their faces and speak.

The word "hypocrisy" came from Greek drama and refers to one who is expressing feelings, beliefs or values that belong to someone else. In Scripture the hypocrite is a pretender, one who is acting a part or who is false, tells lies or is godless. They are with us today – speaking, acting and expressing words they do not believe and behaving differently from who they really are. Times have changed, but hypocrites haven't.

Jesus despised hypocrites with a passion. He spoke of the hypocrites who loved to pray publicly so others could see them and think that they were living a religious life. On another occasion he told the hypocrites to get the log out of their own eyes and stop criticizing others for having a speck in theirs. He also spoke of the Pharisees and advised people to beware of their self-righteous, hypocritical and spiritless behavior.

John wrote, "If someone says 'I belong to God' but does not obey His commands he is a liar." If what we do or say is not consistent with what God requires of us, we must ask God for forgiveness, repent and change.

Prayer: Forgive us, Father, when we have disobeyed Your commands and professed what we did not possess. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 1 John 2:4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Do You Really Believe?

Entertainers who walk on wires that are suspended high in the air use a long pole for balance. There was one "high-wire-walker," however, who, on one occasion, used a wheelbarrow with 200 pounds of bricks for his balance.

One day there were two large crowds, one on each side, watching him as he crossed Niagara Falls.

As he accomplished his feat, the reporters ran up to him with questions and concerns. Pointing to one of them he asked, "Do you believe that I can take the wheelbarrow back to the other side?"

"Yes," came the reply.

"Then," said the wire-walker, "you really do believe that I can do it."

"Of course I believe you can do it," came the reply from the reporter.

He dumped the bricks to the ground and said, "If you really believe I can do it, get in the wheelbarrow."

Mark tells us the story of a father who brought his demon possessed boy to Jesus for healing. He first took him to the disciples but they failed. The father then asked Jesus to "Do something if you can." And Jesus said, "If I can? Anything is possible if you believe." And the father replied, "Lord, help my unbelief."

Faith only grows as we trust, believe and pray.

Prayer: We pray, Father, that You will take the doubts from our mind and fill our hearts with a faith that believes. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Mark 9:24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beginning At The End

One day a grief-stricken man prayed, "Dear Lord, I'm at the end of all my resources. I have nothing left."

"My child," answered the Lord, "when you come to the end of your resources, you are just at the beginning of mine."

One of God's great gifts is allowing us to come to the place of hopelessness and helplessness. When we realize that we have nothing left to cling to and no one available to depend upon, we can begin to realize how much we need the Lord. There are many times in our lives when we are convinced that we are brave or strong, energetic or invincible only to have the "rug pulled out from under us." We are left feeling alone or abandoned, deserted or defeated.

It has been said that it is easier for someone to stand adversity with God than prosperity without Him. We learn in times of trouble and trials that "my grace is sufficient" or "Lo, I am with you always." In times of plenty, we may be fortunate enough to realize that "life does not consist in the abundance of things."

Eventually, we as Christians may come to the place where we realize that all things are possible with and through Christ. But rarely do we realize this until we get to the other side of whatever may have brought us to the "end of our resources." Thank God for "ends."

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for those times in life when we grow in Your grace and stand in Your strength. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Mark 10:27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

Friday, February 18, 2011

What Do They See?

An instructor was trying to encourage his class to be creative. He carefully cut a piece of white paper into a perfect square and held it up before the class. All eyes were focused on the sheet of paper when he asked the question, "What do you see?"

No one said a sheet of white paper, a square, something to write a letter or assignment on or a blank page for a book. The entire class said, "A black spot," for in the left corner of the square was a tiny, black speck. Their focus was on the flaw.

Most of us seem to look for things that are wrong or improper, incorrect or out of place. It comes with our nature. For whatever reason, we try to discover anything about anybody that is not perfect. Or might it be that we are trying to justify what is not "right" about ourselves by seeing what is "wrong" in others?

There is an important message here for every Christian. Peter says, "Make every effort to live a pure and blameless life." What great advice. How would we live or act, if we were always conscious of the fact that we, as Christians, are always being evaluated by what we do or say by those who are not Christians. The world looks at us differently because of who we claim to be. And like it or not, they have every reason to do so. We will never be perfect in this world, but we can be careful.

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to be on guard for that "little spot" that destroys our witness and damages our calling. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 2 Peter 3:14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;

Thursday, February 17, 2011

What A Surprise!

Two men had not seen each for quite some time and were renewing their friendship.

"How's your wife, Fred?" asked Al.

"Haven't you heard? She's in heaven," said Fred.

"Oh, I'm sorry," replied Al. Catching himself, he apologized and said, "I mean, I'm glad."

But it still did not come out right, so he said, "What I really mean is that I'm surprised."

Seeing the confusion on Fred's face, Al tried once again. "What I'm trying to say is that I'm sure you are relieved."

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our words just do not come out right. Try as we might, we get them twisted or turned in the wrong direction. What we want to say is not what we actually say. And then they become quite discouraging or devastating to the person we are talking to.

The wise writer of Proverbs said, "We gather our thoughts, but the Lord gives us the right answer." When others come to us for help or counsel, we must always be thoughtful and ask the Lord to guide us as we talk. When we speak without thinking or give advice without carefully considering all of the possibilities or alternatives, we may do more harm than good.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to be careful in all that we say. May our words encourage and enlighten. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Proverbs 16:1 The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What Are You Looking For?

Bill Bowerman was the track coach for the University of Oregon. Every time he watched his athletes run, he would ask himself one question, "What can I do to help him run faster?"

Often he would think of their shoes and wondered if a different design would enable them to increase their speed. One morning while thinking about this concern, his wife served him a waffle for breakfast. As he looked at the waffle, he thought of a slab of rubber with the imprint of a waffle pressed deep inside of it.

From that concern came the beginning of the now famous waffle-pattern running sole that became the birth of the Nike shoe line.

"If any of you is deficient in wisdom" is the way one translator interprets James 1:5. James was a Christian teacher with a Jewish background and saw wisdom as something that was entirely practical, something that was concerned with the business of living.

We must always remember that our God is a giving God and gives us the wisdom we need to make right choices, solve difficult problems and find directions for right living. However, as willing as God is to give, the responsibility for asking lies with the Christian. When we ask for anything in faith believing, God will grant the request as long as it is in His and our best interest.

Prayer: We pray, Father, that we will rely on You for the wisdom we need to meet and solve our problems. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Secret Things

A magician and his parrot were having a great time performing for the audiences on a large cruise ship.

Whenever he would make a card disappear, the parrot would say, "It's up his sleeve." If he would make a dove appear, he would shout, "It came from his pocket."

One day during the middle of a performance, the ship hit an iceberg and sank. Sitting together with the magician in a life raft, the parrot asked, "OK, I give up. What did you do with the ship?"

There are many things in the Bible that are easily understood. They are clear, well described and are obvious even to the one who begins reading the Word with no definite plan in mind. There are some passages that take research in dictionaries and commentaries or even an explanation from someone who has spent a lifetime searching and studying the Word of God.

Then there are those passages that even the most learned scholars have difficulty explaining or interpreting. What then?

Moses wrote, "There are secret things that belong to the Lord our God; but the revealed things belong to us." Even though we can search, study and understand most of the Bible, our minds are finite. We will never be able to understand the infinite things of God.

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for giving us minds to know, hearts to believe and faith to accept Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 29:29

Monday, February 14, 2011

God-Love

Perhaps there is no one word that is more confusing, more misunderstood, more diminished in significance or abused than the word "love." Although it contains feelings, it is much more than feelings. Although it includes emotions, many times emotions must be controlled. While it includes sentiments, it is more than sentimental expressions that fluctuate from day to day.

Feelings, emotions and sentiments change from moment to moment and day to day because life is dynamic. True love, God-love, must be seen, observed and expressed in the behavior of a Christian.

What I do to and for someone is what matters most in describing love. If we have a question about this, we need only to recall John 3:16 – "God so loved…that He gave!" – not a feeling, sentiment or an emotion. It was and is a love that was given to us from God, for us, by Jesus and to be seen in us and through us because Christ lives within us.

This love is the foundation for all relationships, our relationship with God and our relationship with others. God-love will keep a relationship strong and healthy and people together. In fact, this love is the glue that keeps people together in spite of flaws and faults. We Christians are obligated to live and behave God-love.

Prayer: Father, give us Your grace to live a love that has no limits, never gives up and always shows concern. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Most Of The Moment

A Vietnam veteran was assigned the duty to meet a senator at the airport near his command. It was his responsibility to see that he was taken safely to the office of the commanding general.

As they walked to the car, he stopped to help an elderly woman who was having difficulty carrying her luggage. After a few more steps, he picked up some items that had fallen from the arms of a mother who was having difficulty carrying her child. Then he picked up a child that had tripped and fallen down.

Impressed, the senator asked, "Who taught you to be so kind and gentle and helpful?"

Quickly, and without hesitating, the soldier replied, "During my tour of duty in Vietnam, Sir, it was my duty to clear the fields of mines. I never knew if my next step would be my last. So I learned then and there to get everything I could out of every moment I had."

Twice the Apostle Paul said in his writings, "Make the most of every opportunity." He challenged the early Christians to be alert and aware of the people God brought into their lives. He wanted to impress upon them that the time we have to present His plan of salvation to others is limited and that opportunities, once gone, will never return.

We, too, are obligated to accept this challenge.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to realize the shortness of life and the length of eternity and be faithful witnesses. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Ephesians 5:16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dismount!

Stories of the Knights of the Round Table are fascinating. Even intriguing. There are many hidden messages in the way they do things.

For example, when they were fully dressed, they would ride a large, strong horse to bear the weight of their armor. When they went hunting, they would ride a small, swift horse that could run fast to catch up with the prey. When in a parade, they would ride a tall, high horse. This made them appear bigger than the poor peasant who had no horse at all and would have to look up to them.

In fact, the expression "Get off of your high horse" originated from their exploits. It meant to the onlookers, "Stop acting as if you are above us!"

Wise Solomon had some advice for those who act as if they are above others. He said, "Haughty eyes, a proud heart and evil actions are all sin."

God wants us to develop carefully and use wisely the skills, talents and gifts that He has given us. We are to be thankful for all that we can do in His name and to bring Him glory and honor. But it is quite another thing to have an inflated opinion of our value or our importance. We have what we have because of His grace and we must realize at all times that we are who we are and have what we have to serve Him nobly.

Prayer: Father, may we be ever thankful for all of the gifts You have given us and use them in serving You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Proverbs 21:4 A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Time To Ask

It was one of those days that every mother tries to avoid. First, the washing machine stopped in the middle of the spin cycle. Then she discovered that the toaster was not working. When she opened the door to the refrigerator, she discovered that it had been on defrost all night. The last straw was a raging migraine headache.

She reached down, picked up her small son, placed him on her lap, held him tightly and began to weep softly as the tears ran down her cheeks.

Without saying a word, Ronnie took the pacifier out of his mouth and placed it in hers.

Some days just seem to unravel. We awaken to a shining sun only to have dark clouds appear from nowhere and cover it up. What we thought would be a day of joy suddenly turned into a night of despair. Bad days come into each of our lives and we end up feeling alone and abandoned, overwhelmed and oppressed.

Problems pile up like flakes of snow in a blizzard.

When days do not develop as we want them to, we can be grateful for the grace of God. In the midst of the most draining and demanding experiences that life has to offer, He is with us. He has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Even though God seems far away, He is always close at hand offering His help. If we "Ask anything in My name, I will do it!" It's His Word!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, how thankful we ought to be that Your power exceeds our problems. Always! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: John 14:13 And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Source Of Our Trouble

Charlie Brown was sitting on a rock with his head in his hands and his elbows on his knees. Linus seeing such a sight said, "Charlie Brown, do you want to know what the trouble is with you?"

"No," he answered.

Continuing, Linus said, "The trouble with you is that you don't want to know what's the trouble with you!"

That's the trouble with many of us. We really do not want to see ourselves as we are or as God sees us. He has established spiritual goals for us to achieve, and unless we are willing to see ourselves as we are and how He would have us to be and live, we will not see our "troubles."

Moses warned Israel that God required them "to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and to keep His commandments."

How fortunate we are that God lets us know the expectations He has for us. He has clearly and carefully described the standards and conditions for His followers.

There are no surprises, no hidden agendas, no games. He is a loving God and wants us to know how He wants us to live to honor Him. But we must want to know. If we do want to know, we will discover His ways in His Word.

Prayer: Thank You Father, for Your Word. May we demonstrate our love for You by the way we live. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Deuteronomy 10:12-16

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ready Or Not

A truck came speeding down the side of a hill. It was necessary to make a quick turn at the bottom of the hill to avoid going into a lake. Unfortunately, it failed to make the turn and ended up in the lake. Fortunately, the driver escaped unharmed.

As he climbed from the cab of the truck and waded from the lake to the crowd that had assembled, he was shaking his head from side to side. Finally someone asked, "What happened?"

"Well," he said, "I guess I should have gotten brake fluid before I needed it."

Procrastination, at times, seems to invade everyone's life. Occasionally, we "all plan to do tomorrow what we could have done today." And there are many excuses that encourage us to do so. One might be fear. Another might be thinking the task is unimportant or even too difficult. Again, we may not want to be bothered by a request or even have a desire to inconvenience the one who is depending on us.

Time is one of God's greatest gifts. Once gone, it can never be reclaimed or returned. So we must learn to see time from God's perspective and place a high value on it. God gives us time, first of all, to accept His salvation. Then, whatever days He allows us to live, are to be lived in service to Him and others who need Him.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to make the most of our time so that we may accomplish the purpose You have for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Zechariah 1:4

Friday, February 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.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Frozen Assets

Years ago a fire destroyed a large warehouse that contained many tons of ice. Although it had tens of thousands of gallons of water available to extinguish the fire, they could not be used. The ice was in "cold storage" and could not be reached. The building burned to the ground even though it was full of "frozen assets."

God has given each one of us unique gifts and talents, skills and abilities to do His work in His world. We all are as different as our fingerprints and designed to do things that honor Him. Too often we imagine that what He would have us to do is beyond our capabilities.

We tend to see problems and issues that would require massive amounts of money or large numbers of people to bring change. We look beyond the immediate to the distant and find excuses not to do the things at hand.

If you recall the beginning of the earthly ministry of Jesus, He invited ordinary men to join Him in His work. They had no special training but they did have a special commitment. We read that "they spent time with Jesus." They put aside their personal interests and began to see life through His eyes. He taught them to see the spiritual needs of others and how to meet those needs.

If we are willing to spend time with Jesus and follow Him closely, listen to Him carefully and pray to Him sincerely, we will be able to do the same.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to always be alert for opportunities to tell others of Your love and salvation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 4:19 Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

From Trials To Triumph

What do you do when you have a difficult time pleasing someone?

George Crum was the chef at a famous country club in Saratoga Springs, New York. One evening there was a guest who ordered fried potatoes to go with his meal. When his order of fries was served, he asked the waiter to return it to the kitchen saying they were too thick. This happened several times. Crum became frustrated. But he did not give up.

Challenged, he took his sharpest knife, sliced some potatoes wafer thin, deep fried them in boiling oil, sprinkled salt on them and had the waiter take them to the guest. The guest sampled them, smiled, and decided to pass them around the table to his friends. Everyone enjoyed them and ordered more. The potato chip was born that evening and has become one of our favorite snacks.

There are times in all of our lives when people irritate us or bother us. It seems like nothing we do will ever please them or meet the standards they have set for us. No matter what we do or how hard we try, it is not going to be good enough. So, the temptation is there to give up or quit. Paul said, "God causes all things to work together for our good," even the painful problems and difficult demands. We must trust Him and triumph!

Prayer: Thank You, Father, for giving us problems to solve and challenges to meet, so we can grow strong. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.