Thursday, December 7, 2017

Under The Cover Of Snow

"The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever."
Isaiah 40:8 (NKJV)

When it snows and the snow covers the ground it can completely changes the appearance of everything.  While the snow may come down quickly or slowly, it can eventually blanket the landscape with a covering of white so that everything underneath it is obscured.  There are times that throughout the entire Winter the first snowfall might stay on the ground until Spring, when that happens you can almost forget what things looked like before it snowed.  But, when the warmer temperatures come, the snow melts and the regular conditions return.

Snow can be like the different situations we face in life, something happens that completely changes how things look, but underneath nothing is really different.  It may be one big that happens, or some little things that just seem to pile up, but it appears that everything has changed.  For Christians, God's Word is our foundation and no matter what circumstance or change occurs, God's Word does not change and it must remain our foundation.  If we are not careful, we can allow the different situations and problems we face in life to alter our perspective so that we forget what is reality and what it is that is just changing our view of it.

If we only see the problems and difficulties of life and forget about what we know from the Bible we can start living our life based on a false reality, this is why it is some important to have a good foundation of God's Word in our life.  We need to be so familiar with the Word and so well versed in it that no matter what comes to try and cover things up we always remember our firm foundation of the Word.  By knowing the truth of God's Word, we can always keep our focus on what the true reality is, no matter what happens and how things look on the surface.  Circumstances come and go, but God's Word remains the same!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Unity - A Key For Success

"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,
with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,
endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Ephesians 4:1-3 (NKJV)

In every situation there are some things that are necessary for success.  There can be different things that are necessary in some areas that are not so necessary in others, but one thing that is very often a key to success is some type of unity.  If you have anything with more than one element involved in it then there needs to be a unity of operation, a harmony of function.  If you have a group of people, like a sports team, or some machinery, like a car, everyone and everything has to work together for the whole to succeed.  If one individual or part is out of unity with the rest then there will be problems.

In the New Testament, there is only one book that actually records the history of the Church, that is the Book of Acts.  One thing we see repeated again and again, in fact, it is listed six times, is how the early believers were "in one accord".  This means that they had the same focus, the same goals, and this is talking about unity.  The Early Church had a great deal of success, and one of the key factors was unity.  The one thing that is important for unity is that there is a common element that the focus and goals are centered around.  The thing the Early Church was focused on, after Jesus, of course, was the Word of God.

The only way for Christians to truly have unity is that there has to be an agreement that God's Word is our basis for what we believe.  If we leave what we believe as Christians open to any other factor outside of the Bible, which is where we actually learn about Jesus and what He did for us, there will not be harmony in the Body of Christ.  To have unity we must keep our focus on the Word and we must walk in love with others in areas of minor issues of style and personal preference that are not clearly addressed by God's Word.  God's Word needs to be our standard for what we believe and it is the only focal point that will bring and maintain unity in the Body of Christ.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Treasure Hunt

"in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."
1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)

When I was a child, I used to read stories about pirates.  I was fascinated by the stories of these men who sailed the seas and captured ships and their cargoes.  But, what really caught my attention was stories of pirates' buried treasure.  Even though I grew up in the mid-western United States, as a young child I somehow thought that there might be pirate treasure somewhere near my home.  My goal was to find some of this treasure, and no matter how ridiculous the idea really was, I was continually looking for signs of lost treasure.  As you may have guessed I never found any treasure, but it was not because I didn't look for it.

We tend to find what we are looking for and see what we want to see.  The weather report may say that it is partly cloudy, but doesn't that also mean it is partly sunny?  You could be driving a long distance and think of how many miles you still have to travel, or you can look back at how far you have already come.  Rather than just looking at the negative side of things we can look for something good, something to be thankful for, in every situation.  For example, if we are stuck in traffic we can at least be thankful we have a car, or if there is a long line at the grocery store we can at least be thankful there is a good place where we can buy food.

If we were seeking a treasure we knew was buried somewhere, or if there was something of value that we had lost, we would look and look until we found it.  In the same way, if we will look for something to be thankful for in every situation, it is likely that we can find something.  If we will make it a habit to hunt for something to be thankful about, like we would hunt for lost valuables, it will help us and our attitude as well as in our interaction with other people.  There are many things that we experience in life that are not so good, but no matter what the situation, we can always look for something to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Help Wanted

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me.""
Isaiah 6:8 (NKJV)

When a business needs to have more people working for them they will do something to try and find new employees.  In the past, companies would put ads in newspapers and sometimes place a "Help Wanted" sign in the window of their business.  Today, companies list employment opportunities online, some hire other companies to help them find employees, and there are also job placement services that can help to fill employment needs.  But, no matter how it happens, a company needs to find people to work for it to be able to do what they are doing.  If a business had no employees it would accomplish nothing.

In Isaiah we see that God was looking for someone to go for Him and speak to the people; you could say this was God putting out a "Help Wanted" sign.  This is the same thing that God is doing today because God is still looking for people who will help Him to do His will.  The Bible tells us that as born again believers we are the Body of Christ, and there is no such thing as unemployment in the Body of Christ; God is looking for people to help Him carry out His will on the earth.  There are things that God wants to do today that are not being done because no one has responded to Him.

God has given each of us a gift to use to serve Him and one another (1 Peter 4:10), all Christians have a supply to give to the Body of Christ (Ephesians 4:16), and God has a place for us, where He has set us, in the Body (1 Corinthians 12:18).  All of us are important in the plan that God has today and we all need to see where we can help and do the will of God.  Every believer needs to be ready to answer the call that God is giving to do His work.  If each member of the Body of Christ would fill their position and give their supply tremendous things would be done today.  God still has His "Help Wanted" sign out, how will we respond?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

That Stuff Won't Fit In There

"You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you."
Deuteronomy 4:2 (NKJV)

Today most airlines have some fees for any bags you may want to check.  This has led to some people trying to carry all of their luggage on to the airplane.  In recent years, it has been almost comical as I have seen some people try to bring large bags and other things on to the airplane and then have those people try to fit those things into the overhead storage areas.  It makes me think that some people have no comprehension of size and space or of the laws of physics because there is no way that the stuff they have is going to fit, so the people end up having to check the bag or item anyway.

God has given us His Word to show us who He is, to tell us what Jesus did for us, and to help us in our life.  One thing that we see repeated in the Bible is how we should not add to, or take away from, anything that God has said to us.  However, some people still try to claim the Bible says things that it never says.  People have told me several things that, "the Bible says", that are not really in the Bible.  This leads to problems and confusion on the part of the people who have the wrong ideas about what the Bible says as well as those people who hear them.

Some people try to take their personal beliefs, cultural background, traditions, and other things and add them to the Bible, but we can't fit those things into the Bible.  God and His Word do not change and what we believe must always agree with what God has said.  If we are just trying to find a way to fit our own ideas into God's Word we are only hurting ourselves and the people around us.  We need to know what the Bible says so we can be sure that what we believe about God, who we are in Christ, and how we should live our life are all correct so that we can do what God has said and live the life He has planned for us.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Keep On Hammering

"Is not My word like a fire?" says the Lord, "And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?"
Jeremiah 23:29 (NKJV)

When people build roads they often have to remove or break up rocks that are in the way of the road that is being built.  In the past, there would often be crews of men using sledgehammers to break up the rocks, but today there are machines that can do the work that in the past was done through manual labor.  For some jobs, sledgehammers or hydraulic jackhammers are used to break up rocks.  But, whether it is modern machinery or just a simple hammer, one thing that has always been true is that it can take a while to break up the rocks that need to be removed.

In Jeremiah 23, God's Word is compared to a fire and a hammer.  The truth of the Word will help to burn up the things in our life that are wrong by showing us those things and giving us guidelines as to what we should do.  God's Word is like a hammer in that through continual use of it in our life it will help us break down areas that may have been hard to deal with.  Through God's Word, the Holy Spirit will give us direction and wisdom on how to apply the Word to our life to burn up and break down things that need to be removed.  Jesus said that we would know the truth and the truth would make us free (John 8:32), but this may not happen immediately or overnight.

Another way that God's Word is like a fire or a hammer is when we take a stand in faith on God's Word.  Just like it may take a fire some time to burn up some things and it make take a longer period of time for a hammer to break up a rock, depending on its size, God's Word will work in our life to burn up and break down the problems we face in life and help us remove the things that would hinder us from doing God's will.  We need to keep the fire of the Word burning and keep hammering the situations in our life with God's Word.  As we keep standing on the Word and speaking the Word we it will make a difference in us and in our life.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Preparing The Way

"As it is written in the Prophets: "Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare the way before you." 
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight."
Mark 1:2-3 (NKJV)

The dictionary defines the word "herald" as "a royal or official messenger; a person who precedes or comes before".  In medieval times heralds did everything from carrying and proclaiming messages to directing tournaments and announcing the participants for each joust.  What the herald did was necessary, but it was not something they did for their own direct benefit.  Heralds were people who helped to bring other people's messages and they helped others in tournaments.  The herald was vital in preparing things for other people, and without them some things would not have been ready as they should have been.

John the Baptist is a biblical example of someone who was a herald.  He did and said things that were necessary to help prepare people for the arrival and ministry of Jesus.  John told people that someone mightier than him was coming and John baptized people in water but he spoke of how Jesus would come and baptize people with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:7-8).  John also knew that what he was doing was not for his own benefit and he was simply preparing the way of the Lord (Mark 1:2-3); John's message was all about helping to get people ready for the work that Jesus was coming to do.

Today Christians are in a similar position to John the Baptist, we are all doing a work and speaking a message that is to help prepare the way of the Lord.  We can ask ourselves, what are we doing to help people be ready for the work that Jesus wants to do in their life?  What message are we sharing with others through our words and actions that help to prepare the way for what God wants to do in the earth today?  Every believer has a part in preparing the way of the Lord.  What we do is not something we do for our own benefit, but what we do is a necessary part of the work that God wants to do in the earth today.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Valid Form Of Identification

"If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  
Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.  
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
Colossians 3:1-3 (NKJV)

If you are flying to some international destination, and even for some domestic flights, you will need a passport.  You may have your driver's license with you, a credit card, or even your social security card, but without a valid passport in your possession you would have problems.  The reason is that if you are taking an international flight a passport is the only valid form of identification that is accepted.  A driver's license, a credit card, and a social security card are other ways you can identify yourself, but they are not a valid form of identification for international travel.

In Colossians 3, we are told that our life is hidden in Christ.  This means that for us to know who we really are, to know our true identity, we have to learn about who we are in Christ.  Just like you cannot make an international trip without a valid form of identification, a passport, we cannot make a successful journey through life without our valid form of spiritual identification, who we are in Christ.  If we try to live a life based on something other than our identity as a believer in Jesus we will not have the kind of life that we want and that God has planned for us.

There are many, many things that people use to identify themselves and that they base their life on.  But, unless these things relate to who we are in Christ they are not valid forms of identification.  This may mean that we have to stop using the way of identifying ourselves that we have in the past.  Just like some natural form of identification that has expired, the way we identified ourselves in the past, especially before we were Christians, our former natural means of identification is no longer valid.  As Christians our only valid form of identification is what we find in the Bible about who we are in Christ. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Importance Of Prayer

"But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do.  For they think that they will be heard for their many works.
Therefore do not be like them.  For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him."
Matthew 6:6-8 (NKJV)

Have you ever been in a situation where someone needed help, and you wanted to help, but the other person would not let you help them?  It could be that you are in a position to do what was needed, and you had even offered your help to them previously, but they did not accept the offer.  You may have the necessary expertise, ability, or resources to help the person, but for some reason, they refuse your assistance.  In this type of situation, the only thing to do is to let them struggle, because to force your help on them would be inappropriate.

Some people today have the same problem that people in the past had with prayer, they think prayer is some ritualistic exercise that when done long enough produces results.  Jesus said this is how the heathen pray, not how believers should pray.  Jesus talked about prayer as communication with our heavenly Father; prayer is not the act of trying to talk God into something but rather talking to God about something He has already said to us.  We don't need to beg God endlessly for what we have need of, but we do need to ask Him for those things.

God is not going to force us to take what we need, whether we want it or not.  God wants the best for us, but He has given us the ability to ask and the position to come to Him in prayer to receive what we need.  God knows what we need even before we ask for it, but we still have to ask.  God has shown us in His Word what is available to us because of our relationship with Him and because of Jesus, but if we never ask we will never receive.  What do you need God to do in your life today?  Go to Him in prayer and ask, He is ready and willing to give, if we just ask.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Preparation And Implementation

"Now when they bring you to the synagogues and magistrates and authorities, do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say.
For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say."
Luke 12:11-12 (NKJV)

There are two parts to a successful process.  Whether it is teaching or preaching, a sales presentation, carrying out a task, or doing some job, preparation is as important as implementation.  Before something is done there should be some preparation and then when the proper time comes you implement what you have been preparing for.  If you only have preparation without implementation you will never get anything done.  On the other hand, if you only have implementation without any preparation you will also have very limited, if any, success.  You cannot rely solely on preparation or implementation, you need to have both.

Colossians 3:16 says to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" and Ephesians 5:18 shows us that we need to "be filled with the Spirit".  We must all have a regular time of reading and studying the Bible as well as spending time with God in prayer and developing our relationship with our heavenly Father; all of these things could be considered preparation.  Once we are full of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit we are ready for any situation that may arise in our life.  We can then follow the direction of the Holy Spirit as to how we can best use what we have and what we know in those situations.

It would be impossible for anyone to be able to figure out ahead of time exactly what they will face and exactly how they need to deal with the circumstances that they find themselves in.  In Luke 12 when Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would teach them what to say when they needed to say it, He was certainly not implying that we do not need to do anything ourselves other than wait for a prompting from the Holy Spirit in every situation.  We should be led by the Spirit as to what to do and say, but we also have a part to play in preparing ourselves to be ready to follow the Holy Spirit and speak the Word as He leads us.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Way Forward Is Backwards

"A man's steps are of the Lord: how then can a man understand his own way?"
Proverbs 20:24 (NKJV)

From regional trains, that stop at every town, to the high-speed Intercity Express trains, there are different kinds of trains that operate within Germany.  I have passed through the city of Stuttgart several times as I have traveled to cities in the southern part of Germany.  The first time I took this trip I was a little surprised, because once you get to Stuttgart to pick up and drop off passengers you then leave the station traveling in the direction that you just came from.  The first time this happened I was a bit shocked, but I soon realized that the train was just making its way out of the station and not really going the wrong direction.

When we are traveling somewhere we usually have an idea of where we are going and we would normally check the travel options to find the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way to get to our destination.  But, our path in life is not like a trip to some natural location.  As we follow God and the plan He has for our life there will be times that we are not really able to figure out exactly how the direction we are going now will take us to where we want to go.  Sometimes to get to where we need to be it seems like God will first take us backwards before we go forwards.

It is really not possible for us to understand everything about the direction God has for our life.  If we could understand everything on our own we would not need God and we would not have to walk by faith, as the Bible shows us (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Since God is the One who leads and directs us, it should not be too surprising that we can't always figure out for ourselves exactly how the steps we take today will lead us into the bright future that God has planned for us.  To be able to get to where we need to go in our life and to do the things we need to do we must learn to trust God and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Walking In Love Is Always Appropriate

"Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end] ..."
1 Corinthians 13:8a (AMPC)

Have you ever been to a party or some event where when you arrived you realized that everyone else was dressed in a different style than you were?  Maybe you thought it was a very casual event but you found out that everyone else was dressed up.  It might be that no one told you what the right style of clothing was, or maybe some notice was given about what to wear and somehow you did not find out.  No matter how it happens, it is always a bit uncomfortable to find out that what you are wearing, or even what you are doing or saying, does not fit in and is not appropriate.

Not wearing the right type of clothing can be uncomfortable, but it is not the end of the world, acting inappropriately or saying something that is out of line is another thing all together.  Unfortunately, there is not one perfect set of clothes you can wear that will always fit in and be appropriate, but there is a way that we can be sure that what we do and say will be appropriate in every situation, that is by walking in the love of God.  In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul talks about the love of God and he shows us what it looks like by giving us a clear definition of what love is and how we can and should act to display God's love to everyone, in every situation.

If we learn to walk in love by following the guidelines given in the Bible, and by looking for ways to do things that will help and build up others, then we will always say and do the right things at the right time.  No matter what the circumstance, walking in love is always appropriate, the love of God fits and works in every situation.  And the good news is that as Christians we can walk in love because the love of God is in us (Romans 5:5).  By walking in the love of God and allowing it to be what motivates us, we can be assured that what we say and do will always be good, right, and appropriate.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Way To Success

"This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.  For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."
Joshua 1:8 (NKJV)

Success is something that nearly everyone is striving for in some way.  About the only people who are not looking for success are those who don't believe it is possible for them to succeed in life.  For some people, success means reaching a certain goal or achievement, and for others, success would mean getting out of their present negative situation into something better.  Whatever the case, most people want to have success and no one likes to fail.  Today there are many books and programs available that claim to help people find success, but many people still do not find it.

Although not everyone actually believes it, God wants people to succeed.  While the meaning of success may differ in the minds of some people, God wants everyone to do well and live a life of success and well-being.  But, a life of success is not the goal, it is really the result of following God's plan for our life and things working the way that they should as we follow God.  People often make the mistake of pursuing the idea of success without realizing that by doing this they are putting the result ahead of the method and thereby hindering themselves from the success they desire.

In the Bible, God gives us the real plan for success that anyone can follow. After the death of Moses, Joshua became the leader of the nation of Israel.  God showed Joshua that the way to success was through knowing, speaking, and doing the Word of God.  To succeed Joshua needed to know what God had said so that he could do what God had said, and he could then say what God had said.  No matter what area of life we need to succeed in, the way to success is the same for us as it was for Joshua: we need to know, speak, and do the Word.  By following God's direction, Joshua was able to succeed and we can too!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Border Test

"He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters."
Luke 11:23 (NKJV)

Several years ago, a member of the United States government made an interesting comment about being able to know what a country is like by doing what he called a "border test".  This official said it would be interesting to see what would happen if you dropped the borders of a nation, to see if people go in to or out of that country; if there were no restrictions which way would people go?  That is an interesting question as some countries have many, many people doing anything they can to get into them, while other countries have very few, if any, people who want to go there.

No matter where we live, or what country we originally come from, we can also do a sort of border test with ourselves.  Generally speaking, do we attract more people to what we are doing or do we repel people?  More specifically, do we attract people to Jesus, the Church, God's Word, and Christianity in general, or do we drive people away and make them want to go as far as possible from anything remotely connected to spiritual things?  Jesus made it very clear that no one really rides on the fence, you either help to gather people to Him or you scatter people away from Him.

In the Bible, we see that believers make up the Body of Christ on the earth today; God will work through us to reach people.  But, if our actions, attitudes, and words drive people away from the things of God, then that is not good.  We need to do all we can to be the light of the world that Jesus spoke of to draw people to Him.  We are either helping to bring people closer to God or driving them away.  God wants us to be successful, happy, and healthy for more than just our own personal benefit.  God wants us to be a living display of His love and goodness to draw others to Him.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

What Price Would You Pay?

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."
Matthew 13:44 (NKJV)

Auctions are interesting events. I have been to several different kinds of auctions and they are all fairly similar in that there are things to buy and people who are considering buying those things.  But, what can be very interesting about auctions is what people are willing to pay for different items.  What may have no real value to one person can be exactly what another person is looking for.  Some things will have many people bidding on them, and the price can go higher and higher, depending on how much those people want that thing and how much they are willing to pay for it.

Abraham is one of the central figures of the Bible.  One thing that stands out about Abraham is that he was willing to do what God said and pay whatever price God asked.  When God asked Abraham to sacrifice His son, Abraham was willing to give up his most precious possession because God asked him to.  God never really intended for Abraham to kill his son, God was testing Abraham to see if Abraham was really willing to pay the price to do what God had said (Genesis 22:1, 12; Hebrews 11:17).  Abraham was like the man in the parable Jesus told in Matthew 13 who sold everything he had to buy the field that had the treasure in it. 

There may be times in our life, just like with Abraham, where God asks us to give up something and He is checking to see if we are willing to pay the necessary price to follow Him.  God is looking for people who are committed and willing to do whatever it takes, who will pay the price to do His will.  Everything will cost us something, whether it is our time, our efforts, or some financial or material thing. Some people would pay the price to serve God if the price was not too high.  The question is, what price are we willing to pay?  No matter what price we may pay to follow God and do His will, we will never give or pay more than God will give us in return.