Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today

A young Marine was leaning against the side of his tank early one morning during the Korean War. He was eating cold beans from a can with his penknife. It was cold and foggy and the silence was frightening.

A reporter, aware of the impending battle softly asked, "If I were God and could give you anything you wanted, what would ask for?"

After a lengthy pause, he answered, "Today!"

All that any of us have is today. Few of us, however, realize the importance of each day that God gives us.

The Psalmist said, "Teach us to make the most of our time..." Time is a gift and we must be aware of each tick of the clock and moment of the day. Once gone, time can never be reclaimed or recycled. What we have done with it becomes a part of history.

Realizing the significance of time and the uncertainties of life should help us put our priorities in order. The first is our relationship with God. Is it all that it can be? Second, is our responsibility to others. Is there someone, somewhere who needs God's message? And, finally, do I need to make things right with others?

Prayer: Lord, may we see the value of time in light of eternity and use it wisely to Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"Mop, Please!"

A fierce storm was raging outside. It was dark and cold, and Jim's mother was busy cleaning the kitchen. Nearing the end of her work, she said, "Please go outside and get me the mop, would you?"

"But Mom," he plead, "I'm afraid of the dark."

"Don't be afraid, son," she said. "Jesus is there to help you."

He opened the door, peered into the darkness, stuck one hand outside and said, "Jesus, would you please hand me the mop?” Is that His responsibility?

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul said, "I can do everything with the help of Christ." Most of us wonder what he meant by "everything." So what did he mean?

As we live in Christ and with Christ, we can do everything through Christ as long as it is His will. His power is always available and His strength is certainly sufficient to meet, face and overcome any challenge that may confront us. But we must abide in His Word, be obedient to His teachings, follow the directions He gives us in His Word and serve Him by winning the lost and helping those in need.

Prayer: Father, we know that You will never leave us nor forsake us as long as we are faithful to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Caring For "The Babe"

During his career Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs. His final game was not what he had hoped it would be. His life style and age were taking its toll and he was not able to play as well as he wanted to. He committed an error when a ball came to him, struck out and because of his mistakes the Cincinnati Reds took a five run lead. The people in the stands began booing him loudly.

Suddenly a little boy ran from the stands, threw his arms around his legs and started to cry. The deep affection of the little boy melted the hearts of the crowd. First they became quiet and then they started to cheer, "The Babe, The Babe!"

God's love is always directed toward others. It is a love that contradicts the world's understanding of love because it is utterly unselfish. Many times it is difficult to express because it goes against our sinful nature and selfish interests. And it is really impossible to have and show this kind of love unless we have the love of God within us that comes from knowing Christ.

This love, this God-love, is a love that does for others without expecting anything in return. It is a giving love that we see in the life and death of Jesus.

Prayer: Help us, Savior, to love others as You love us - not counting the cost, but showing that we do care. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shop Carefully

Supermarket behavior is fascinating to watch. It seems as though people change when they enter the door, get their carts and begin to walk through the aisles

The cart becomes a very special "space" that is filled with various items for our particular needs. We would consider someone strange if they met us at the door and said, "Here, take my cart and fill it with whatever you want. I'll meet you at the check out area."

Often, however, we do that with our minds. We become careless with what we read, what we watch, what or who we listen to or what we think about. It can be dangerous - just as it would be if we allowed some stranger to fill our cart.

We are warned in Proverbs to "guard your heart above all else for it determines the course of your life." In the Bible the heart is akin to the mind and is the keeper of our feelings and thoughts, guides our decisions and provides solutions for daily living. The heart is critical in the battle between wisdom and foolishness, righteousness and evil. It is more important for us to set boundaries around our heart than it is to watch what goes into such a simple thing as a shopping cart.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to be very careful about the things that come into our minds and control our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Bright Example

It is recorded that street lighting was first introduced in Antioch in the fourth century. But it was Benjamin Franklin, the famed inventor, who introduced it to America. Other countries had street lighting in their cities as early as the eighth century.

While serving as the postmaster in Philadelphia, Franklin urged the city fathers to install street lights in their city. The city fathers refused because they believed it was too costly.

Franklin refused to give up and hung a beautiful lantern on a bracket in the front of his home. As the people walked by, they realized the difference it made.

There was no stumbling or falling because it was so well lit. Soon, his neighbors followed his example and it was not too long before the entire city saw the value of street lighting. Franklin achieved his goal not by argument but by example.

People want to follow good examples because everyone wants to copy what makes sense and works. Paul advised Timothy, who needed to earn the respect of his elders, to “set an example in speech, life, love, faith and purity.” We must follow Paul’s advice.

Prayer: Lord, whenever our lives fail to live up to Your standards, give us no peace until we change. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

SCRIPTURE: 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Salvation And Change

"Never trust Tom. I did and he disappointed me twice!" said his employer.

"Why should I not trust him?" his friend asked.

"People never change. Once a thief, always a thief! Once a liar, always a liar," he raged on.

But that is not always true.

Few people were more despised than the tax collectors in Jesus' day. The Romans were attempting to establish a world empire and it was a costly venture.

To accomplish their goal they levied heavy taxes on all of the nations that were under their control. Without the tax collectors the Empire could not survive. So it was no surprise that the people were shocked when Jesus went to the home of Zacchaeus. How could someone as honest as Jesus associate with such a dishonest thief and liar?

When he met Jesus, he realized that he needed to straighten out his life. And he did! "Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor. If I have cheated anyone of anything, I will pay him back four times."

The new birth brings new behaviors. When we change on the inside, people will see it on the outside.

Prayer: Forgive us, Father, if we claim to be born again but live as we always have. May we repent, now. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Luke 19:1-10

Monday, May 16, 2011

Not Us

Leaving church one Sunday morning, a husband and wife said to the pastor, "That was a great sermon, one of your very best. I only wish that our neighbors had been here with us. Everything you said applied to them, and they needed to hear it!”

Far too many individuals come to church with a shield or sieve not a wagon or wheelbarrow. Instead of taking the message with them and applying it to their daily lives, they deflect anything that applies to them or allow only little bits of sifted material to enter their minds or hearts.

One of the important parts of a healthy life style is an annual physical examination by a physician. It is designed as an early warning system to detect any life-threatening disease. Many times an illness can be stopped effectively before it becomes deadly.

So, Scripture says, "Examine yourselves...test yourselves" to see if you are truly a Christian. A spiritual checkup done daily will help us to see if there is a growing awareness of Christ's presence and power in our lives. If we are not getting closer to God every day, we are moving farther away from Him.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to be honest with You about our salvation and to be true Christians, not imposters. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 13:5-6

Friday, May 13, 2011

Reach Out

Years ago Ben Franklin Stores was a major retail chain. Many of their customers came from rural areas to shop. An observant employee recognized that some had a difficult time in getting to a store and asked if he could open some stores in those areas. When they refused his request, he resigned and took his stores to the people.

As a result of his vision, Sam Walton's name is known around the world and Wal-Mart stores are everywhere. He did not expect people to come to him.

One day Jesus said to Simon, "Now go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and catch some fish." Initially, Simon was hesitant saying that he and his co-workers had already tried that and it did not work. Then after thinking for a moment, he said, "But if You say so, I'll let them down again." And when he followed the advice of Jesus, the results were amazing.

Jesus left a message for each of us: "Go into the world and make disciples!" Fish never come to the fisherman - the fishermen always go where the fish are. Skepticism has ended many opportunities to reach out to win the lost. Like Sam Walton, let's go to the people.

Prayer: Father, may we reach beyond our homes and churches and do all that we can to make disciples. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Luke 5:1-11

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Other Side

While driving over a beautiful mountain pass in North Carolina, I said to my brother, "I have never seen such beauty. The snow capped peaks, the cascading waterfalls, the jagged rocks and brilliant blue sky are more beautiful than any I have ever seen! I never expected to see such beauty anywhere."

"Oh," he said, "wait 'til you see the other side."

All of us are anxious to "see the other side." Some because our loved ones have gone on before us and we are lonely because of our loss. Others long to be free from endless suffering and relentless pain. Many are anxious and worried with the endless problems that are never solved and seem to be tearing the world into fragments. Most, however, because we want to see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Paul encourages us to "Rejoice in our confident hope. To be patient in trouble, and keep on praying." In one verse he gives three commands to the Christian. We are to rejoice, remain patient and pray, knowing and believing that one day, "old things will pass away, and all things will be new" when we get to the "other side."

Prayer: Lord, help us not to lose sight of the "other side" when the cares and concerns of life overwhelm us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Romans 12:12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Now?

Each afternoon an old farmer and his Labrador retriever would walk to the train station, sit down together and wait for the train to arrive at three o'clock. When the engine appeared, the dog would jump up, wag his tail, wait for the train to get closer and then race alongside of it.

One day a stranger said to the farmer, "That's a crazy dog you got there, mister. Does he actually think he can catch that train?"

"Nope," said the farmer. "And he wouldn't know what to do with it if he did."

We often behave like that dog. We see things that are larger than life itself and go after them in hot pursuit. We conquer them or they may actually conquer us. But in the end, they have no value to us.

In His message about worry, Jesus advised not to be concerned about worldly things - things that are here today and gone tomorrow. He warned that "these things dominate the minds of unbelievers."

Our focus, then? "Seek the Kingdom of God above all else." When our priorities are in order, we will no longer chase things that really do not matter.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to trust in You, believing that You know whatever we need and will supply it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 6:25-34

Monday, May 9, 2011

Seize The Moment!

A young, unemployed musician had spent weeks walking the streets of New York looking for work. One afternoon he walked into a theater, sat in the front row watching the organist closely. Finally the organist stood up and left the stage for a break. At that moment he jumped up, ran to the organ, sat down on the bench and started to play an inspiring blues song.

Immediately, the owner ran onto the stage and began to reprimand him for what he had done. But the crowd began cheering loudly and clapping wildly. As he listened to the response of the audience, he realized what had happened, and turned to the musician and said, “Want a job?"

"Yes!" said Count Basie and the career of one of the world's most recognized musicians began at that moment.

God often presents opportunities for us to use the gifts and talents he gives us. Many times those in need pass in front of us. There is no shortage of people who are waiting to hear God's message and learn of His love, salvation and hope. But we fail to seize the moment because we are occupied with worldly pursuits.

Prayer: Lord, grant us Your approval and blessings by making our efforts to serve You successful. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 90:17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Knowing And Doing

Two men were enjoying the annual church golf tournament. While waiting for their turn, one said to the other, "There are times when I would like to ask God why He allows hunger and poverty, when if He is all powerful, He could do something about it."

"Well," asked his friend, "why don't you ask Him?”

"Because," he answered, "I'm afraid He might ask me the same question."

Many believe that we only sin when we do what we know is wrong by not following the Word of God. Not so, writes James.

He tells us that sin is also not doing what we know to be the right thing to do. We would all agree that it is a sin to speak evil of someone and harm their reputation. But it is also a sin if someone speaks evil of a brother or sister and we remain silent and do not speak up on their behalf. God expects us to do kind acts, serve others, guard carefully the reputation and protect the relationships He provides us.

Someday we will be judged by our standard of life not our standard of living.

Prayer: Help us, Lord, to do what we know is right, to avoid what we know is wrong, and always be honest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: James 4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Using Our Talents

Years ago, a Jewish immigrant from Russia gave his son a violin for his eighth birthday. After months of lessons and hours of practice, he became very accomplished.

Years later while performing at a concert, he paused and shared a funny story about an experience he had that day. The audience laughed heartily and applauded loudly. He was so delighted and encouraged by their response that he decided to end his career as a violinist and become a comedian. So began the career of Jack Benny - a career that brought joy and happiness to countless thousands.

God has something very special for each of us to do. And he wants to do through us what He has not and cannot do through anyone else. Each of us has a special place in God's heart and a unique role to play in His world. Scripture plainly says "To every man his work."

We often struggle and strain to discover what God has for us to do. But, if we are open to the nudging of His Spirit and develop the gifts He has given us, He will present many opportunities for us to serve Him.

Prayer: Lord, we ask that You guard us and guide us as we follow the paths You have planned for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Psalm 32:8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Against All Odds

Ernesto Malinowski was a builder of railroads in South America. He was once a member of a group that was asked about the possibility of building a railroad through the Andes Mountains in Peru. After much debate and discussion all of the engineers, except 72-year-old Malinowski, said it could not be done. But he prevailed, and a railroad was built connecting the inland cities and natural resources with the coastal cities and shipping ports.

This project included 62 tunnels and 30 bridges and was stopped twice because of war. In spite of it all - those who believed it could not be done, the difficult terrain, the conflict - Malinowski persisted and prevailed against overwhelming odds and succeeded. He would not compromise his convictions.

Standing firm in our loyalty to Christ and not giving in to the pressures of the world is often difficult. The author of Hebrews had this in mind when he wrote "sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule." Then he continued, "But trust in the Lord and remember the great reward it brings you!"

Endurance and faithfulness bring God's reward.

Prayer: Help us, Father, to stand firm in our faith and to be God-honoring and Christ exalting in all that we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: Hebrews 10:32-36

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Writing For Eternity?

Thomas Mann was a well known and highly regarded novelist. His books were well written and on one occasion, he won the Nobel Prize. He was also recognized for the length of time it took him to write one of his books. On one occasion his publisher complained to him saying, "You have been working on this book for an eternity!"

"After all," he replied, “I am writing it for eternity." Even though his writing skills and insights were known around the world and had great influence, none of them could produce life. There is only one Book that has life-giving power: God's Word.

Jesus said, "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." One Word, one Person, one purpose: Life through Christ.

The writer to Ecclesiastes said, "Of the writing of many books there is no end and much study wearies the body." We read and study, learn and think and come to some well thought-out conclusions. But in the final analysis, life does not come through knowledge - it only comes through Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Father, may we know and believe that You are the Way, the Truth and the Life and trust only You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: John 20:31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What If It's Your Last Day?

A radio talk show host asked his audience an interesting question. "If you knew that this was the last day of your life, what would you do?" The responses were overwhelming and most enlightening.

The first caller said, "I'd hurry to an organ donor bank and make sure that some worthy persons would benefit from my body parts."

Another said, "I would crowd everything that I thought was fun in this, my last day. I'd want to go out laughing."

The third caller said, "I would phone all of my friends and tell them how much I appreciated all that they had done for me. I'd want each of them to know how much our friendship meant."

Finally, one said, "I'd want to take time to be alone with God and pray and make sure that my heart was right with Him. I'd want Him to know how much I was looking forward to meeting my Savior, too."

Although it is not a pleasant thought, we each have a date with death. Few know the day or the hour. But we all know for certain that there is life after death.

Prayer: Father, "Now is the acceptable time" for us to be sure that Your Son is our Savior and Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 6:2