Thursday, February 16, 2017

You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover

"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement."
John 7:24 (NKJV)

The saying that "You can't judge a book by its cover" goes back over 100 years and it is an idiom that many people are familiar with.  How something looks on the outside, or at first glance, may not be a true representation of what that thing is really like.  This principle is true in many areas, including with people.  When you first meet a person, you may form an opinion of them that later proves to be wrong.  We know that it takes more than a few minutes to really get to know someone, but is there was way that we can get to know what someone is really like?

Some people say that we should not judge other people.  In a way that is correct, but in another way it is not.  While we do not have the right to condemn other people and judge them for their mistakes or things that we might think they have done wrong, we need to make a correct judgement about people as to who they really are.  Jesus said in John 7:24 that we do not judge people or things by appearance, but we must make a righteous, a correct, judgment.  We don't base our assessment of people on what we see outwardly, but we must focus on their actual character and what they have on the inside.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:34 that it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks and in Mark 7:16 Jesus said we would know people by their fruits, by what is produced in their lives.  We need to be wise and discerning with people and not be deceived by just one statement or action that is made.  You can learn a lot about someone by listening to what they say and watching how they act over a period of time; this is how we can make a correct determination of that person and who they really are.  God wants us to have good relationships with the right people and being able to correctly know who people are will help us make right choices in our relationships.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Dramatic Direction?

"Then He said, "Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord."  And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice."
1 Kings 19:11-12 (NKJV)

Fireworks are often used to celebrate special events.  At the start of a New Year, on national holidays, and other celebrations, dramatic displays of fireworks are put on that thrill the crowds.  Other times there might be big parades or a unique activity used to mark the special day.  Everyone likes the fireworks, parades, and the special events surrounding them.  But, even if there were not any fireworks it would not change the significance of the event.  If there were no parades on the 4th of July in the USA it would still be the day that marks the independence of the nation.

We all like special, amazing, and dramatic events and everything that goes with them.  But, if we are only focused on the special and amazing things we might miss something that is actually very important.  This can happen in regard to significant events or national holidays, but it can also happen in listening to and following God's direction for our life.  We might think that something amazing or dramatic has to happen whenever God wants to give us guidance, but His leading can be a simple as remembering a verse from the Bible or an idea that comes to us when we had not previously been thinking about the subject relating to it.

In the story about Elijah in 1 Kings 19 there were a lot of amazing things happening, but none of those things involved God.  God gave Elijah wisdom about what to do and direction for his life through a still small voice, without any fireworks.  If Elijah had only paid attention to the dramatic things happening around him he would have missed what God was trying to tell him.  God wants to guide us in life but we must realize that His leading will most often be something like a still small voice in comparison to the other things that might be happening around us.  God wants to give us the wisdom and direction we need for our life, but it may not come in some dramatic form.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Who Do You Trust?

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man."
Psalm 118:8 (NKJV)

There are a lot of things that people put their trust and confidence in.  Some people have a great deal of trust in the stock market and economic statistics, whether these things are up or down has an impact on these people.  Some people have a lot of confidence in their job, their friends, their family, the government, and even their church.  The problem is, our job, friends, family, the government, and even our local church can make a mistake or let us down.  If our trust is built on any of these things, we can be greatly shaken when they do something that disappoints us or causes us problems.

While it is not wrong to trust people or organizations and get involved with them, we cannot put all of our trust or confidence in them.  It is easy to get focused on people or organizations and expect them to help us and take care of us instead of trusting God and putting our faith in Him and His Word.  But, if we put our trust and confidence in people or organizations we will always end up being disappointed.  Some Christians have more trust in people and organizations than they do in God because they know those people or organizations better than they do God.  It can be easy to trust someone or something we can see and feel rather than our unseen Heavenly Father.

Trust is built through relationship, the better you know someone and the more time you spend with them the more you are able to trust them.  It is not wise to put a great deal of trust in someone you do not know very well.  But, once you have spent some time with this person and you get to know them, then you can see if this person is trustworthy or not.  We need to spend time getting to know God through His Word and by spending time with Him in prayer so that we can have an unshakable trust in Him for every area of our lives.  God is our source for what we need in life and we must always look to Him as our Provider and Guide.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Channel Surfing

"For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish.  Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
Esther 4:14 (NKJV)

Years ago there were not so many channels to choose from, but today with satellite, cable, and even the Internet, there are many, many channels to choose from when you want to watch something on television.  There have been times that I knew that some movie or sporting event was going to be on television, but I did not know or remember what channel it would be on.  So, what I had to do was some "channel surfing".  I would look through all of the available channels to find what I wanted to watch.  If I did not find what I was looking for on one channel I did not stop, I just keep looking through the channels until I found what I was looking for.

Everything in the Christian life operates by faith.  Starting with salvation, we receive all of the things that God has provided by faith in God and His Word.  But, what happens when we take a stand in faith about something and we don't see the results when we want or the way we want?  What often happens is that we give up and "unhook" from our faith.  But, instead of giving up we should keep on expecting the answer to come, even though we did not find what we were looking for where and how we thought we would find it.  Just because we did not get an answer when or how we thought we would does not mean that the answer is not on the way.

While there are some specific answers to prayer that we need, there are times that we miss our answer and the help we seek because we are looking for the wrong thing or we are looking in the wrong place.  Instead of just looking at one "channel" for our answer to come through we need to keep ourselves open to whatever source God may choose to use.  Like Mordecai told Esther, deliverance will come, the answer will come, and if it does not come one way then we can be sure that God will bring it some other way.  God will work to help us, but we may need to look beyond our regular channel to find the answer we are looking for. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What Do You Really Look Like?

"Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror;
for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of a man he was.
But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."
James 1:21-25 (NKJV)

Just about everyone has a mirror in their home and many people even carry a mirror with them.  Although some people can get carried away with looking in mirrors because they are so self-absorbed, everyone needs to use a mirror sometimes.  Mirrors can help us to see if we need to comb or fix our hair, to see if our clothes are in order, and mirrors can even help us to see if we have something caught in our teeth.  Without a mirror there are times you may need to make an adjustment with your appearance and not realize it, and that could lead to other problems.

In James 1, God's Word is compared to a mirror.  We are told that there are some things we need to lay aside and something we must receive, which is the truth of God's Word.  Then, when we have received this truth, we need to put it into practice.  James 1 tells us that if someone hears the Word and does not do it then it is the same as someone who looks into a mirror and forgets what they look like.  The only way to make sure everything looks right naturally is to look into a mirror.  The only way to make sure that things "look right" spiritually is to look into God's Word.

As we look into the Bible we will see who we really are now and what we should look like.  We all want to do the right things in our relationship with God and follow God's plan for our life, but if we do not have an accurate picture of ourselves and what we should be we will fall short.  We can all have opinions about what looks right but we need to have an objective standard to go by.  We need to continually look into the mirror of God's Word to see a true image of what we look like, and how we ought to look, to become the person God wants us to be and to do what He wants us to do.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Is What You Want What You Really Need?

"But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me.  
And Jesus answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  
But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."
Luke 10:40-42 (NKJV)

If you ask people what they need you will get many different answers.  If someone is dealing with a financial issue they will usually say they need more money, if people are very busy they will say that they need more time, and if people are feeling alone they will say that they need a friend.  But, is what we say we need really just what we want?   Instead of more money maybe we really need some financial restraint, instead of more time maybe we need to set the right priorities, and instead of finding new friends maybe we need to take a look at the people that are already around us to find the companionship we long for.

Too many times we mistakenly think that what we want is what we need and this causes problems.  In the story about Mary and Martha, Martha was so distracted by what she was doing that she thought that the help she wanted from her sister was what she needed.  However, when Martha tried to have Jesus tell Mary to help with the serving, Jesus said that Mary had chosen what was really necessary, what was really needed.  What Martha was doing was not wrong, and no doubt she had good intentions in wanting to do a good job with her serving, but what she wanted from her sister was not really what she needed.

Just like Martha, the things we are involved in can cause us to think that what we want is what we need.  For Martha, what she wanted was help from her sister but what she really needed was to be less focused on her serving and more focused on Jesus.  If we only consider ourselves and the things we are immediately dealing with we can lose sight of what is really necessary and what we really need.  First and foremost in life we need to develop in our relationship with God and allow things to develop from there to be able to correctly discern what is really needed and not just look at what we want.  God will meet our needs but He will not always give us all of the things that we want.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Whose Prayers Are The Most Effective?

"Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
James 5:16 (NKJV)

There are some people who are very skilled at what they do, often these people are professionals in their areas of expertise and they make their living from doing what they are highly specialized in.  For example, everyone can count to 10, but some people are specially trained in the areas of finances and accounting.  But, while some people are experts in these areas and some are not, you don't have to go to a professional to be able to use a calculator.  There are some things that may seem complicated and difficult, but with the right training those things can be done by anyone.

Some Christians seem to have the idea that prayer is a mysterious process that does not work the same for everyone, and someone like a pastor can get prayers answered that others cannot; these people believe that prayer is something only certain Christians can do because they are experts at it.  Some people have even told me that they have a special ministry of prayer that others do not have, but there is no ministry of prayer listed in the Bible.  Prayer is really just communicating with God, and while some people have developed in the area of prayer more than others, we don't need to be a prayer expert to be effective with our prayers.

James 5 tells us that the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.  Every righteous person can pray as effectively as any other righteous person, and as Christians we are righteous in Christ.  The words "effective" and "fervent" here talking about prayer mean active and efficient.  When we pray according to the Word of God we are praying effectively and our prayers are actively working in the areas we pray about.  We don't need to look for a prayer expert, God will hear and answer our prayers as quickly as He would anyone else who prays according to His Word.  We can all go to God in prayer and be confident that our prayers will work!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Well, What Did You Expect?

"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful."
Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

Have you ever had something happen that was not exactly what you had hoped for, or even what you might have expected?  For example, maybe you asked someone to do something for you and it did not work out or you tried to do something that in the end did not succeed.  Someone might say, "Well, what did you expect?  That is how things always work out".  Sometimes things happen in a way that, if we were honest, it is about what we thought would happen and we did not really expect anything different.  We start with some hope and an expectation, but we honestly don't expect too much to happen.

Every December, before the next year begins, people start to have some expectations about the coming year.  It is a strange thing that sometimes people's hopes and expectations are based solely on the changing of the calendar year, as though this is the only time that things can change.  But, people have some hope that things can be better next year than they were this last year.  The problem is that if people were honest, they are really only hoping and there is no actual, positive, biblical expectation of things improving.  The good news is that with God things can always improve and we always have a reason to have hope and a positive expectation.

In Hebrews 10:23 it talks about holding on to our confession of hope; the Greek word that is used here means an expectation.  No matter where we are now, where we have been, or what happened in this last year, we can have a positive expectation that with God's help things will be better next year.  As we move into the New Year we should all place a positive expectation on the future.  Find out what the Bible has to say about you and your life and then make that your confession for the next year.  No matter how things look, we have a faithful God who is interested and willing to work in our lives.  Expect things to be better next year and believe for the best in life!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Good Things Come In Small Packages

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Isaiah 9:6 (NKJV)

Christmas is one of the main times of the year that people receive presents, the other occasion being a birthday.  I remember when I was a child that my first response about the presents I would receive was based on the size of the present.  When it was my birthday or Christmas, and presents were coming my way, I would look to see how big the package was.  If the package was big I expected a big gift, and if the package was small I would almost get disappointed.  But, I learned over the years that a present does not have to be big to be good, good things come in small packages too.

At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, this was God's greatest gift to the world.  But, when Jesus arrived on the earth it was not with a lot of fanfare or some big elaborate display of majesty.  When Jesus came to the earth He came as a baby, not as the conquering king that most of the Jews were looking for.  The birth of Jesus was not what many people expected for the arrival of the Heavenly King.  People knew about Isaiah 9:6, but they mainly focused on the second part of the verse that talks about Jesus ruling and reigning and not the part about the Child being born; but good things do come in small packages. 

Jesus' humble birth and beginnings on the earth were no reflection of His true identity or destiny.  Just like many people only expect big things from big packages, many people miss the real significance of Christmas because they focus on the baby born in the manger.  We talk about angels. wise men, and a baby and sometimes miss the real importance of Christmas.  This Christmas as we celebrate the birth of Jesus let's make sure we don't forget that Christmas not only marks the arrival of Jesus in a small package but it also signifies the arrival of our Savior; He is Wonderful, Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Activating What You Need

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress: My God, in Him I will trust."
Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil shall befall, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways."
Psalm 91:1-2, 9-11 (NKJV)

Over the years I have done a fair amount of traveling and often I travel by airplane, which of course means going through an airport.  Most airports and their bathrooms are modernized and many things are motion activated, like doors, escalators, sinks, and hand dryers.  But, while these things will operate automatically there is still something that is required to activate the "automatic" function.  A door will not open unless you walk towards it, the escalator will not move until you step on to it, and the water in the sink and the hand dryer will not work until you put your hands in the proper place.

We can read in the Bible about how good God is and how God provided so many things for us through Jesus.  But, why is it that we don't always see these things in our everyday life?  The reason is that while God has indeed provided many wonderful things for us, these things require us to do something to activate what it is that we need.  Psalm 91 gives us a good example of this and shows us that by doing and saying something God is able to do what He wants to do.  It does not say that just because God is so wonderful that these things happen, but they happen because of something we have done in response to what God has provided.

In Psalm 91 it talks about dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and saying that God is our refuge and fortress.  Later in this same Psalm it says that because we have made Him our dwelling place and because we have made Him our refuge all these blessings of protection become ours.  This is why it is so important to learn about what belongs to us as Christians and then to do our part to activate the blessings of God.  For salvation, healing, protection, and provision we need to do our part to activate the blessings that God has already provided for us through Jesus, it won't just happen automatically, we have a part to play.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Be Careful How You Hear

Therefore take heed how you hear.  For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him. 
Luke 8:18 (NKJV)

Our sense of hearing is very important to us.  But, if you want to stop hearing certain things you can use earplugs or maybe some headphones to cancel out the noises around you, or to listen to something else.  This could be a problem, however, if you are hearing one thing when you should be listening to another thing, or if you have blocked out all the sounds around you.  One simple example of this is if you are being given instructions on how to do something, but you don't get the necessary information because you either did not hear what was said or you were listening to something else.

In Luke 8 Jesus talked about the importance of what we hear and He also emphasized the importance of how we hear it.  Jesus had just told the parable of the sower and how the same seed had different results, based on the soil where the seed was sown.  Jesus explained that in this parable the seed represented the Word of God and the soil is talking about the people who heard the Word.  The Word of God, the seed, is always good but depending on the person, the soil, there will be different results.  We need to hear the Word of God on a regular basis and be careful how we hear it.

Some people hear the Word, but because they are listening to something else that they allow to be louder in their life than God's Word, the truth of the Bible does not make the impact that is should in their life.  Some people listen to what God is saying with the wrong kind of attitude and because of who is speaking or because of what they already believe they do not accept the Word and there are no results.  We must be ready and willing to receive the Word, no matter how it comes to us or who speaks it, and then apply it to our lives.  This is how we grow, produce fruit in our lives, and do great things for God.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

You Are Here

"But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,"
Ephesians 2:4-6 (NKJV)

Have you ever been at a shopping mall or in an airport where you were trying to locate a certain place?  Whenever I have had this experience I looked for one of those location charts that are posted in places like malls and airports.  Once I found the location chart, I first found the marker that showed where I was, the "You Are Here" spot, and I then looked for the place where I wanted to go. It might be that I had already found the location of where I wanted to go, but I could still have a problem getting to my desired destination if I didn't know where I was currently located.

Our spiritual location is far more important than our geographic location.  One of the most important things Christians can learn about is their location, their spiritual position, with God.  Some people put an emphasis on their natural location and might even believe that they live in the best part of town.  Some people base their identity on their past and what they have experienced in life.  Others view themselves through their education, natural background, or even the church they attend.  But none of these things matter if we are in the wrong spiritual location.  The Bible is the place we need to look to find out about our true spiritual location and identity.

No matter who we are, where we come from, or where we are located geographically, our position with God is the most important thing of all.  When we are born again we are placed into the body of Christ.  The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:6 that spiritually we are seated together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  Just like a location chart in a mall or an airport, the Bible shows us in places like Ephesians 2:6 the "You Are Here" spot we need to find.  Once we know our spiritual location we can move towards where we need to go in life and what we need to do.  We must base our identity on our spiritual location to be able to live the life God has planned for us.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A Lifestyle Of Thanksgiving

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."
Psalm 107:1 (NKJV)

The things we do on a regular basis can become a pattern and a way of life.  Things we do often enough can become a habit, which can be good or bad.  There are some things we can do so frequently that they almost become an automatic thing, something we can do without giving it much thought ahead of time and without an excessive amount of effort.  Our patterns in life, our habits, and the things that become almost automatic in our life could also be called our lifestyle.  On the other hand, we would not say something we rarely do or only do infrequently are a part of our lifestyle.

We can all develop and maintain good habits that will benefit us and that can become a regular part of our life, being thankful is one of these things. Having a lifestyle of thanksgiving will help us live a successful Christian life and enable us to be a greater blessing to those around us.  Unfortunately, a lifestyle of thanksgiving is not the standard for most Christians.  We need to be thankful no matter what circumstances we are in, no matter how we feel, and no matter what things look like.  While we cannot control all of the things that happen around us or how others act, we can control whether or not we will be thankful.

We need to be thankful for what we have instead of being unhappy about what we don't have.  We need to find things to be thankful for, and we could even make a list of these things to refer to when we don't feel so thankful; reminding ourselves about what we have to be thankful for can be a big help.  Having a lifestyle of thanksgiving helps us to keep focused on God.  We do not give thanks just to get something back from God, but we give thanks as a part of our lifestyle and our relationship with God.  Start being thankful today and make thanksgiving a part of your lifestyle!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Finding Your Gift

"As each one has received a gift, minister to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God."
1 Peter 4:10 (NKJV)

When I was a child I looked forward to Christmas because I would always receive some gifts.  We of course realize that Christmas is most important because it is the date that we celebrate the birth of Jesus on the earth, but usually children don't focus on that too much.  For children, presents are the main thing.  In my family there were four boys so we would have more than just a couple of gifts under the tree.  My biggest question was like most children, which is mine?  It did not matter to me what my brothers were getting because I was mainly interested in finding my own gift.

The Bible is very clear that God has a plan and a purpose for each and every person's life. In 1 Peter 4:10 it tells us that each one has received a gift and each one needs to be a good steward of that gift, we all have a gift from God and we all need to use our gift from God in the right way.  The problem with many people is that they either do not know that they have a gift or they do not know what their gift is.  Some people think that it is just the pastor or some church leader who have a special gift and everyone else is an unimportant part of the group, but the Bible says we each have a gift from God.

How do we find our gift?  The first and best step we take to discover God's gift and how to best use it is to look in God's Word and get to know who we are in Christ.  Second, we can take time to talk to God in prayer about our life and what direction He wants us to go.  Another way we can learn which gift God has given us is to take a look at our life to see what talents and abilities we have and also look at what it is that we find joy in doing.  It is one thing to recognize and appreciate gifts that others may have, but just like a child on Christmas we want to find out what our gift is.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Will You Sing For Me?

"Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord."
James 5:13-14 (NKJV)

Everyone likes to be a winner, no one likes to lose.  If you lose at some game or sporting event you can be gracious about it and accept the defeat, but that does not mean that you enjoy it.  However, when you are on the winning team, or if you accomplish some victory on your own, the thrill you have is unmistakable and you are ready to jump and shout.  At that point you don't need anyone to motivate you to be excited, you are ready to celebrate on your own.  We would find it strange to see someone on a winning team stand silent while having someone else celebrate in their place.

Over the years that I have been a Christian I have met and talked with many people who were going through some difficult situation.  Often these people will ask me to pray for them or maybe give them some biblical advice on what to do about their problem.  This is certainly something we see in the Bible as we are told to support and pray for one another.  What I find interesting is that while I often have people ask me to pray for them when they dealing with something difficult, I cannot recall a time when someone asked me to sing for them when they were happy.

James 5 says that when we suffer we should pray, when we are happy we should sing, and if we cannot help ourselves we should call someone to help us.  It is easy to sing and celebrate when things are going well and we are happy, but it is not so easy to pray when things are tough.  If we can always do the singing for ourselves then shouldn't we also be able to do some praying for ourselves, at least sometimes?  While it is fine and right to go to someone else and ask from prayer in a difficult situation, we should also get to the point in our spiritual development that we are not just looking for someone else to always help us but we are in the position to help others.