Thursday, March 23, 2017

Living Stones

"Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,
you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."
1 Peter 2:4-5 (NKJV)

Recently I was watching some workmen build a wall that was made up of individual stones rather than bricks.  The reason I noticed how this wall was being put together was that one of the workmen was looking at each individual rock and examining its size and shape to see where it would fit into the wall.  No stone was being rejected, but each had a place somewhere in the wall.  Although some stones were placed in the wall sooner than others, and some rocks had a more prominent place in the wall than others, the wall became bigger and bigger and today those stones make up a large wall.

When someone becomes a Christian, the Bible calls them a new creation, a child of God, and even His (God's) workmanship.  In 1 Peter 2, believers are also referred to as living stones.  God is the Master builder who knows all about us and knows where we fit best into His Kingdom and His plan.  It may look to others, and maybe even to ourselves, that we don't necessarily fit in, but God has a place for each one of us and together we are being built up into a spiritual building that God will use.  Just like the workman took each smaller stone and used it to build a larger wall, God is using us to build something bigger than ourselves.

Where do we fit into God's plan?  One thing is certain, God knows this better than we do, so we cannot try to figure out for ourselves how God will use us and we can't just try to make a place for ourselves.  We all have a place in God's master plan and He puts us where we belong.  He knows our talents and abilities and where they can best be used.  It is interesting to note how just a few verses earlier it talks about how we need the Word to grow.  The Word helps us to grow and it helps us get to know who we really are and to see how God can use us.  We are God's living stones that He is preparing for a place in His plan.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Any Acceptable Substitutes?

"And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men."
Mark 7:7 (NKJV)

A substitute is something that is used in the place of another thing, something that is in some way equal to or the equivalent of something else.  For example, if you are baking something you will need certain ingredients.  But, it could be that you realize you are missing something you need.  It may be that you have to have butter, or eggs, or something else that at the moment is not available.  In this situation, you can often find an acceptable substitute to use in place of what you were supposed to have, and this substitute will work just as well as what you were originally going to use.

While there may be some acceptable substitutes for some baking ingredients, some things have no substitute; God's Word has no substitute, it has no equal.  In Mark 7, Jesus pointed out a problem that the Pharisees had that many people still have today.  Jesus told the Pharisees that what they were doing was in vain because they had created doctrines out of the commandments of men.  The Pharisees had tried to substitute something else for the Word of God.  Most Christians know about the Pharisees and the problems that they had, but they do not realize that they are often guilty of doing the same thing that the Pharisees did.

No matter what idea someone comes up with, no matter how good something may sound, or who does or does not do something, we can never substitute man's ideas for God's Word.  We may not directly contradict what we find in the Bible with some man-made idea, but do we put more emphasis on our feelings, past experiences, something our favorite preacher said, or even a song than we do on God's Word?  If we want success in life and to be able to take advantage of all of the blessings that God provided for us through Jesus, then the only way to do that is by knowing and applying the Word of God in our life, there is no acceptable substitute for God's Word!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fill It Up!

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."
Colossians 3:16 (NKJV)

Different types of cars use different types of gasoline and some vehicles use diesel fuel.  When you want to put something in your car to make it run, and run properly, you need to have the right kind of fuel.  The biggest difference in fuel is between gasoline and diesel, but there are also different octane ratings for gasoline.  Some cars run better on one type of fuel than they do another, and for some cars there are recommended octane ratings that the gasoline used needs to have.  If you put the wrong type of fuel in your car it can cause some problems, but if you get the right fuel you can fill up your tank and drive for a long distance.

If you just drive your vehicle without refueling eventually you will run out of gas and come to a stop.  In a similar way, if we try to live our lives without keeping ourselves full of God's Word then we will eventually come to a place where we can no longer function the way that we should.  Or, if you fill your vehicle with the wrong type of fuel, you may move forward but the vehicle will not operate as efficiently as it should.  The same is true spiritually, if we fill ourselves with things that are contrary to God's Word we can still go on living our lives, but we will do it less effectively than we should.

Just like we can take our vehicle to a place to get the necessary fuel for it, we go to the Bible to fill ourselves up spiritually.  God's Word gives us what we need to live our life and keep on going.  Some people say that prayer is the necessary fuel for the Christian life or that singing, praise, and worship are the key.  But, while all of those things are great, if they are not based on the Bible they will not do anyone any good.  As Colossians 3:16 tells us, we need to let the Word dwell in us richly, we need to fill up on God's Word.  God's Word is the fuel we need for our spiritual life and we need to fill ourselves with it.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

We Are Ambassadors

"Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore your on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God."
2 Corinthians 5:20 (NKJV)

Every country that wants to have official representation in another country sends an ambassador to that other nation.  Ambassadors are sent by their home nation to promote that country and the interests of that place and that government, not to go and promote themselves or their own interests.  No good ambassador would work against their home nation or do things that would be a bad representation of where they come from.  Good ambassadors maintain good contact with their home country, and they only say and do the things given to them by the leaders of their home nation

In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul talked about being an ambassador for Christ.  He said that as he did his work, it was as though God was pleading through him that people would be reconciled to God.  Paul was not just doing or saying something that was his own idea or even necessarily his own desire.  Paul understood that he was an ambassador, representing God to the people he came into contact with.  But, being an ambassador for Christ is not just something that was limited to the Apostle Paul.  We may not be an apostle like he was, but we can still share the Gospel message with the people we meet.

Earlier in 2 Corinthians 5, Paul talked about having the ministry of reconciliation, telling people the good news that, because of Jesus, God is not holding their sin against them.  This is what it means to be an ambassador for Christ.  Some people may be called to different types of work in the Body of Christ, but we are all ambassadors for Christ.  As ambassadors for Christ we must represent Him and His message, not ourselves or our interests.  We need to live our lives with the understanding that we are an ambassador for Christ, we go where He leads us and do and say what He wants; this is something that every believer can and should do

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Starving In The Grocery Store

"Your words were found, and I ate them, and your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts."
Jeremiah 15:16 (NKJV)

There are a lot of places you can go to get food.  You can go to a restaurant to get some food that is already prepared and ready to eat, or you can go to a place like a grocery store to buy food to prepare for yourself.  But whether you are in a restaurant, in a grocery store, or at home with some food you still need to eat the food once you have it.  It would be very strange to be in a restaurant or a grocery store and be surrounded by food and die of starvation by simply not eating anything.  But, while it would be very unusual, it is theoretically possible to be surrounded by food and still not have enough to eat.

We can own Bibles and good books that teach us about biblical principles, we can have lots of wonderful audio and video teaching from men and women of God, and we can be in the best church in the world with the best pastor and still not benefit from these things.  No matter how much good teaching we have from God's Word it will not help us unless we "eat it" by accepting it into our heart and putting it into use in our life.  Just like it is theoretically possible to starve to death in a grocery store, we can be a spiritual failure by not taking advantage of the good teaching we are being provided.

The best way for us to receive truth from the Word of God is by feeding ourselves on the Bible itself.  But, we can and should also take advantage of the various methods of receiving the great teaching that is available to us today.  It is a tragic but true fact that there is more access to God's Word and great teaching today than ever before.  But in spite of this many, many believers are suffering from spiritual malnutrition and are not taking in enough spiritual food to sustain their spiritual life, which in turn harms their natural life.  We need to come to God's Word, in whatever form we hear it, ready to receive and apply the truth that is taught.

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.