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. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Clear Out The Clutter

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things."
Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)

When I was a child I was not so neat or organized, at least not as much as I am now.  In the past there were times when my room was very messy and some things were hard to locate.  At the time it did not matter to me where I put something because I knew generally where it was.  As I grew older I learned that it is better to have things in order and to be organized because it is not only much easier to find things when they are needed but having things neat and organized is nicer than having things messy and cluttered.  What I had to learn and practice was how to clear out the clutter.

One thing I learned in my process of becoming more neat and organized was that I had to part ways with some things and not hang on to everything forever.  I also learned that I had to be diligent with myself to continue doing what I knew needed to be done or I would slide back into the world of messy and cluttered.  This is exactly the same way we as Christians need to work on renewing our minds.  The Bible has a lot to say about the mind and it even gives us the guidelines we need to know what thoughts to keep or remove and how to continue having the right kind of thoughts for the rest of our life.

People often have problems in their minds because they do not think on the right kinds of things; God's Word will help us get the clutter and mess of wrong thoughts out of our minds.  Our thoughts need to be continuously monitored to make sure any wrong thoughts do not get into our thinking.  Wrong thoughts lead to the wrong kinds of words and actions so right and godly thoughts are vital to living the kind of life God has planned for us.  We all need to have a steady diet of the Word of God to help us have the right thoughts and to identify the wrong kinds of thoughts.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What Are You Here For?

"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
John 6:38 (NKJV)

Have you ever had the experience of walking into a room and when you got there you didn't remember exactly why you were there?  You find yourself unsure of what to do next because you forgot the reason for why you are in the room.  Some people say that is just something that happens when people get older, but it can happen to anyone because we can all lose our train of thought or get distracted.  No matter how something like this might happen, the issue is about not knowing the purpose for being somewhere, without a purpose you can feel lost.

When Jesus was on the earth He made many statements about what He was doing here and why He was doing it.  For example, Jesus said He came to do His Father's will and not His own will (John 6:38), He came to fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17), to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), and to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  Jesus knew why He was here and what He was here for, the question is if we know why we are here what we are here for.  If we don't know what our God given purpose in life is, then our top priority needs to be to find out.

The best way to discover God's purpose for our life is of course to read and study God's Word and to talk to Him in prayer.  A great way to learn more about our purpose is to get involved in our local church and by helping others.  Our purpose from God does not revolve around ourselves and it will only be seen in relationship to others.  God has a plan for each and every person and He has given everyone some gift and ability to use to glorify Him and serve others, our task is to discover this gift and then to make the best use of it as God directs us. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Watching The Master

"Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us."
Psalm 123:1-2 (NKJV)

Recently as I was out shopping, in the town where I live in Germany, I saw a man walking his dog.  As I came up to and then passed the man and his dog I noticed that for nearly that entire time as dog was walking along it was looking up at the man, who I would assume was the dog's owner.  What caused me to take notice of this particular dog was that except for one or two very short glances forward the dog was staring at their owner the entire time and still walking along fine.  The two thoughts I had were that this is a well-trained dog and that the dog is smart enough to know that the man is the master in the situation, so he was watching his master.

God is our loving heavenly Father and we are His children, but in Ephesians 6:9 and Colossians 4:1 it talks about our having a Master in heaven.  While Jesus was on the earth, His disciples called Him Master, and that word master could also be translated as teacher.  We know that our Father God and Jesus do not treat us as slaves by demanding harsh servitude, but we still cannot emphasize one aspect of our relationship with God over another.  While we do need to develop the relationship that exists between us as children and God as our heavenly Father we also need to develop in our relationship with God as His being our Master and Teacher.

As we go about our daily life, do we expectantly look to our heavenly Master knowing that He is truly our source of supply for everything we need or do we just move forward not even considering that He may have something to say about what we do and what happens in our life?  Just like the dog in my example who had learned to walk forward while all the time looking at his master, we need to learn to live our life with our eyes continually on our Master in heaven.  No matter who we are or what we might do in our lives we need to be watching our heavenly Father knowing that He has the best plan for our lives and He knows which direction we need to go.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Flip The Switch Christians

"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My Word, you are My disciples indeed. 
And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
John 8:31-32 (NKJV)

We have all seen different types of switches.  We use some switches to turn lights on and then turn them off when we leave the room or are finished with our work.  While the power that makes the light work is always available, the power is not put into use until the switch is turned on by someone who wants to have some light.  We don't really think about whether or not the light will work for us because we always expect the power for the light to be there.  But what if the power was not available?  How would we know until we turn on the switch?  If we can be sure that the power for the light is always available, then we can be confident that the light will always work for us.

Our relationship with God, our faith in His Word, and the Word of God itself are intended for full-time use, not just when we think we are ready for them.  We cannot just turn our relationship with God and His Word on and off when it is convenient for us.  Jesus said to be His disciple we need to abide, to live, in His Word.  Often we have the idea that because God is all powerful and God is always present we can just flip the switch, so to speak, and things will work the way we want them to.  If we have this mentality, then we are putting all the emphasis on God and His part in our life but we are ignoring our part in our relationship with Him and our being a doer of His Word.

While it is certainly true that the Christian life is not based on our works and we do not earn any of the blessings of God it is also true that God is not a vending machine that we put our money into when we want something to come out.  God and His Word in our life is not just something that is meant for our convenience but for a daily walk and relationship with Him.  As we spend time growing in our relationship with God and living a life that is focused on Him, that is when all the things we need are added to us (Matthew 6:33).  We must have a lifestyle of Christianity and not just a life of running to God when we have some type of problem that needs to be solved.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

So Much More

"And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles.
Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist."
Ezekiel 47:3-4 (NKJV)

There are some well-known sights that people are very familiar with and the places where these famous sights are located are often known for them.  For example: Paris, France is known for the Eiffel Tower, California is known for its beaches, and Switzerland is known for the Alps.  But while all of these places are known for these things, that is not all that there is to them.  Paris has other sights to see besides the Eiffel Tower, California has more than just beaches, and there is more to Switzerland than just the Alps.  If all you know about these places are the famous sights, you are missing a lot that these places have to offer.

One wonderful thing with God is that no matter what we have experienced with Him, no matter how much we know about His Word, and no matter how long we have been in our relationship with God there is always more.  Some people know about the goodness and love of God, but there is so much more to God than just that.  Some people have experienced miracles and mighty moves of God, but there is so much more to God than just that.  Some people have spent time reading and studying God's Word and have achieved a level of spiritual development that others do not have, but there is still so much more.

Some Christians have been taught well and are very knowledgeable about the Bible, but there is always more to learn about God and His Word.  Some have done great things for God and can't imagine that what has happened in the past can be surpassed in the future, but with God there is always much more.  Some believers have only waded into the things of God and then for some reason they believe that they have reached their limit with God.  But, we all need to go on to "deeper waters" with God.  As Christians we should never get to the point of complacency with God, because there is always so much more that we can experience with God, learn about God and His Word, and do for Him!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

How We Walk In Love

"For you, brethren, have been called to liberty, only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."
Galatians 5:13-16 (NKJV)

Knowing what to do is one thing but knowing how to do it is another thing entirely.  You can hear about the importance of living a healthy lifestyle of eating right and exercising but exactly how you do that is something else.  People can give you advice on the benefits of investing and saving money but where do you start with that and how do you do it effectively?  If you only know what to do but you don't know how to do it you are not really going to be able to succeed in what you need to do, we need both the what and the how of things.

Most Christians understand the idea that we are supposed to be kind and patient and walk in love with everyone.  But, if you ask believers how to do that you will get a lot of different answers.  We are told in Galatians 5 that we need to serve each other through love and that love fulfills that law, but exactly how does that work?  How can you walk in love with everyone, including the people that seem to do nothing but annoy you?  The good news is that God not only shows us what we need to do but He gives us the guidelines necessary to be able to do what He tells us to do and the help of the Holy Spirit to do it.

Galatians 5 tells us what to do and it also tells us how to do it.  We are told that if we only focus on our liberty, our side of things and what benefits us, we will just end up biting and devouring one another.  Insisting on our own rights and ways is yielding to our flesh.  But, if we follow the direction of the Spirit of God and follow the guidelines that God gives us in His Word then we will serve one another and not fall prey to the lusts of our flesh.  If we follow the flesh we will have chaos but if we follow the Spirit we will walk in love and produce the fruit of the Spirit.  The choice of what we follow is up to us and will determine if we walk in love or yield to the flesh.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Don't Go Down The Wrong Road

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
Proverbs 16:25 (NKJV)

In my phone I have an app for maps that also works as a navigation system.  When I am driving somewhere I can put in the address of where I am going and the navigation system tells me how to get to my destination.  What is interesting is that the navigation system also shows me alternate routes that take me to my destination, and while they may take longer these other roads still go to the same place.  But, not every available road is a road that will take me to my destination.  Some roads may have a nice name or look good but they will not help me reach my goal so I actually need to stay off of them to avoid any problems.

Proverbs 16:25 gives us some very good advice, some ways might seem good but they won't take you where you want to go, these wrong roads can lead you to trouble!  The Christian life has been compared to a race (Hebrews 12:1) and in any race there is a course.  No matter how the race is done, whether it is automobiles, bicycles, or a foot race, there will be a course to follow.  If someone goes off course they will not only fail to finish the race but their wrong route could lead them into danger.  As Christians, there are many ways we can do things in our life but the only guarantee of true and lasting success is to live a life based on the Word of God.

There are a lot of things people will tell you that you need to do to be a successful Christian, but if those things do not line up with the Bible then they will lead you down a wrong road.  Some people will tell you about things they say worked for them, but unless those things are Bible based there is a danger of going the wrong direction.  God has given us His Word and the Holy Spirit to direct us in life and if we follow what God has given us then we are guaranteed to have success.   If we follow other things, no matter how nice they may seem, we can be traveling down the wrong road and miss God's best.  God has a great plan for our lives but we will only find it by traveling the path He shows us in His Word.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Do You Have All The Puzzle Pieces?

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
Acts 17:11 (NKJV)

There are many different kinds of puzzles that you can put together to create a picture, usually these are called Jigsaw Puzzles because of how the pieces have been cut up.  Some puzzles are very simple and especially designed for children but other puzzles can be very complicated.  Some puzzles have very few pieces and some have thousands of pieces.  But, no matter what kind of puzzle or how many pieces it may have, the one thing that all puzzles have in common is that to get the right picture when the puzzle is completed you need to have all the pieces in the right place.

Although the Bible is not really a puzzle, in a way it is like a puzzle, to have the correct view of it you need to have all of the right pieces in the right places.  Too many people, including Christians, do not really know what the Bible says and so they struggle to understand who God is and what they need to do in their lives.  Acts 17:11 tells us about the Bereans and how they searched the Scriptures daily to see if what they were hearing was really so.  They did not just rely on someone else to tell them what the Bible said, they found the puzzle pieces for themselves to get the right picture. 

These people in Berea were searching, daily, to check what was in the Bible and to have an accurate picture of God and His Word; they were checking to be sure that they had all the puzzle pieces necessary to get the right picture.  Too many Christians are not looking in the Bible daily, or even on a regular basis, and this only leads to problems.  We all need to determine that we will get a complete view of everything that God has said by having a regular time of reading and studying the Bible.  This is how we will have all of the pieces in the right place to get the right picture of God and His plan for our life!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

No Celebrity Treatment

"For there is no partiality with God."
Romans 2:11 (NKJV)

Have you ever seen the different magazines or even television shows the talk about celebrities and the lives they live?  Many people are fascinated by celebrities who seem to live in a different world than the rest of us do, they seem to live a life that most people never experience.  Celebrities often have people who help them with the food they eat, the clothes they wear, and who tell them how to do things to live the celebrity lifestyle.  It can be hard to imagine these celebrities working at some regular job or doing some everyday task because they seem to be in some different category than the rest of the world.

Some Christians have developed a celebrity type mentality when it comes to spiritual leaders thinking that they are not like other Christians.  One misconception that people have is that spiritual leaders are in some elite class of Christians and that is wrong.  Spiritual leaders are no more a Christian than anyone else, they simply have a different position and task in the Body of Christ.  Another misconception that people have is that spiritual leaders have some special deal with God and things in the Bible work differently for them than for the average Christian.  People often seem to think that some things will work for spiritual leaders but not for anyone else.

Romans 2 tells us that there is no partiality with God, He shows no favoritism and no one gets a special deal with Him.  God's Word applies the same to every believer and what God has done for one He will do for another.  Salvation works the same for every Christian as does being led by the Holy Spirit, getting answers to prayer, possessing the promises of God by faith, and so on.  If we have the idea that God will not work in our life the way He will for someone else we have been deceived because with God no one receives special, celebrity treatment; God's Word will work the same for everyone!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Was That Written To You?

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
Hebrews 8:6 (NKJV)

What if somehow you mistakenly were receiving emails or text messages that were meant for another person, what would you do?  Would you just keep reading the emails or messages and begin a correspondence with the other person and maybe start asking for their advice?  Most people in a situation like this would reply and let the sender know that they somehow have the wrong person.  This other person may be very nice and even have some encouraging or helpful things to say but those things were not really meant for you, those things were written for someone else.

Today, because of Jesus, we have a new covenant with God.  Through His death on the cross Jesus opened the way for all mankind to have access to God; now we just need to put our confidence in the work of Jesus and be born again.  In the Bible we have the Old Testament, the old covenant, and the New Testament, the new covenant.  Jesus came to bring us this new and better covenant.  It is vital that Christians become familiar with and base their life primarily on the New Testament, the new covenant.  This is not to say that we completely reject the Old Testament, but we must realize that the New Testament was written directly to us.

Under the old covenant no one could be born again and have their sins washed away as we have in the new covenant.  We have a completely different relationship with God than the people in the Old Testament had.  The Old Testament was written to give us natural examples of the spiritual truth that we find in the New Testament.  If we do not spend the majority of our time with the New Testament we may develop an inaccurate view of our relationship with God and what belongs to us today as Christians.  To fully live out the life that God has provided for us through Jesus we need to live in the New Testament, that is what was written to us!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Job Descriptions

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
John 10:10 (NKJV)

Many companies today have job descriptions for their employees.  The purpose of a job description is to give someone guidelines about what they will do for their employer.  Very often the job description fits with the qualifications that the employee has and sometimes to even get hired a person has to be able to carry out all of the tasks given in the job description.  Someone's job description shows you what they do and who they are.  If someone's job description is to clean the bathroom he would not be a cook and if someone's job description was to cook he would not be the cleaning person.

In John 10:10 Jesus gave us what we could call some job descriptions.  Jesus said that the thief, talking about the devil, only comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  Those are the things that the devil does and we can see that all of those things are bad.  Jesus said the He came to give people life, a more abundant life, and that is a good thing.  But people have sometimes thought that if something bad happens to them that it just might be something that God did for some mysterious reason.  But, according to the "job descriptions" we see in John 10:10, the devil does bad things and Jesus does good things.

Acts 10:38 says that Jesus was anointed by God to do good and heal people who were oppressed by the devil.  Here we see again that Jesus does good and heals while the devil is the one who brings sickness and oppression.  1 Corinthians 14:33 and 1 Timothy 1:7 tell us that confusion and fear do not come from God but peace and love do.  The Bible gives us a clear understanding of what Jesus does while exposing the tactics of the devil.  We need to accurately know who Jesus is and what He is like to live the abundant life that Jesus came to bring us.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Finish In Faith

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
Romans 4:20-21 (NKJV)

Where you finish is much more important than where you start, this is true in many different settings.  In auto racing a driver may start in the pole position but have a bad race and even end up in last place.  On the other hand, someone could start in last place and do well enough to finish in first place.  Another example would be learning some new skill or studying a subject in school.  When you start you would obviously not know how to perform the skill or you would not understand the subject, but if you applied yourself you could master the skill and learn the subject.

In Romans 4 we read about the promise that God gave to Abraham about having a son. When God first gave this promise to Abraham in Genesis 17, Abraham fell on the ground laughing! In Genesis 18 we see that Sarah also laughed when she first heard God's promise of a son.  Laughing at the promise of God does not sound like something someone who believes what God says does, it sounds like someone who does not believe what was said. The good news is that after Abraham's initial reaction he did become strong in faith.  Abraham and Sarah did not start so well but they did finish in faith.

At first Abraham did not believe what God had said. But Abraham developed in his faith to the point that he was not laughing at the promise but expecting the fulfillment. How about you? What is happening in your life and what does God's Word have to say about it? You may look at God's Word and what God has said about your situation and it looks as impossible as God's promise did to Abraham. But if you continue to focus on what God has said and continue to speak God's Word, you too can finish in faith and receive the fulfillment of the promise and then you will really have something to laugh and rejoice about!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Giant Killers

Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.
1 Samuel 17:36 (NKJV)

Smart phones are great because there are so many different things that they can do, especially through their apps.   One app on my phone that I really like is the weather app.  Almost every day I use this so I can be ready for whatever weather I might face that day.  Knowing in advance if it is going to be hot or cold or it if will rain is a big help.  The weather app is great and what would even be better is if there was some app that could show future events we will deal with so that we could be ready ahead of time.  Unfortunately, no such app exists that can predict the future for us, but there is something we can do to be ready for our future.

Just about everyone has had some experience where if they knew about it ahead of time it would have been great because then they could have prepared and been ready for it.  We certainly don't go looking for problems in life but they will come anyway and we are often taken completely by surprise.  In the story about David and Goliath, David did not go looking for Goliath.  But, when David met the giant, in the normal course of his life, David was ready.  How was David able to fight and defeat Goliath, how did he prepare?  Did David go to giant killer school?  What did David do to be ready for this situation?

David was ready to fight Goliath because David had been doing other things that helped to prepare him, like defending sheep from a lion and a bear.  In the same way, God will bring us opportunities to do things that will help us grow and develop spiritually so when problems come we are ready for them.  Too many Christians wait until they face a challenge before they do anything for their spiritual development.  God will bring us opportunities today to prepare us for tomorrow.  By following the leading of the Holy Spirit, taking advantage of opportunities that God brings us, and being faithful to do what God has called us to do, we too can be giant killers!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The First Step

Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 
Colossians 1:12 (NKJV)

With every journey or trip that we make and with everything that we do there is a start, there is a first step.  If we don't take the first step, we will never get started and if we try right away to take the second step instead of the first step we will have problems or be unsuccessful in what we are trying to do.  If we count to 10 we have to start with the number 1, if we want to recite the alphabet we have to start with the letter "a".  How we begin our journey and how we start the things we do will have a direct influence on the rest of the journey and the complete work we are doing.

It is wonderful to read in the Bible about all of the things that God has done for us through Jesus, about how God has great plans for our future, and how God will always lead us in triumph.  But, the first step in all of those areas is not what God has done but how we view ourselves in relation to those different things.  For many people the first and biggest step in living a life filled with the best that God has is to believe that this is really something that is available to them.  Over the years I have talked to many people who were familiar with what the Bible says but who thought that for some reason they don't qualify.

The first tactic the devil will try to use against us is to keep us ignorant of what the Bible says.  If the devil fails to keep us from discovering the truth, then his next tactic is to make us think that somehow we do not qualify or are not good enough for what God has.  But, the things that God has for us are not based on who we are and what we have done but who God is and what Jesus has done.  Our first step in living the God kind of life that Jesus came to bring us is to realize that everything God has said is available to us through faith because of Jesus; Jesus qualified us to receive the blessings of God.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Who Do You Know?

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NKJV)

Not knowing who you are is a bad thing.  Knowing who we really are is important and losing your memory is not something to be taken lightly.  If somehow you lost your memory and completely forgot who you were it could create some major problems.  But what if somehow, someone could convince you that you are not who you really are?  What if you met a person who claimed you were somehow tricked into thinking you are not who you really are?  If this person could convince you that your identity was something other than what it really is it would be that same as losing your memory and not knowing who you are.

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul made an interesting comment when he said that at one time we only knew Jesus according to the flesh.  Paul was saying that while he and others once only knew Jesus in a natural way that now they know Him for who He really is.  Paul went on to say that from now on he would not just consider who someone is based on the natural side of life.  Paul was talking about the fact that we need to see Jesus, other people, and even ourselves from a spiritual perspective.  If we only know Jesus, others, and ourselves from a natural point of view we will have some problems.

Some only know who Jesus is naturally, a teacher who did some good things.  But, if we know who Jesus really is and that He died on the cross for our sin that is a different perspective that will change our life!  If we only see ourselves from the natural point of view, we will not know who we really are.  Who we really are is found in Christ, we are a new creation in Christ.  God has given us His Word to help us understand who we really are based on our true identity in Christ.  If we only know about the natural side of who we are we are living under a mistaken identity and that will cause us to live below the best that God intended for us to have.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fruit Or Fun?

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
John 10:10 (NKJV)

There are things people do because they have to do them, but there are other things people do that they like to do and they look forward to doing them.  Many people have a job they dislike but look forward to their weekends and vacation because that is when they can do what they like and have fun.  Some people are fortunate enough to have a job that they enjoy but even then there are often aspects of that job they are not happy with.  It usually seems as though our work and the things we enjoy do not go together and most of the time we have to choose between one or the other.

Often Christians have difficulties because ideas and concepts from the world get into their thinking.  Many Christians either completely believe, or they at least accept the idea, that we can either serve God and do His will or we can have a wonderful life.  For many Christians the idea the Jesus came to give us an abundant life is something that they only consider for their personal well-being and it is not usually seen as having anything to do with the Church or serving God.  Too often people, including Christians, think that Christians have to choose between bearing fruit for God or having fun in life; the good news is that we can have both. 

When Jesus talked about people having an abundant life He was talking about a life lived fulfilling the will of God.  Too many people try to live a life fulfilling their own wishes and desires, not realizing that by following God's plan for their life they would not only be in line with the purpose that God created them for but that as they follow God all of their personal goals would also be fulfilled (Matthew 6:33).   God created us for a purpose (Ephesians 2:10), He has given us a gift to use for His glory (1 Peter 4:10), and His plans for us are always good (Jeremiah 29:11).  Living a godly life should include both fruit and fun.

Friday, July 15, 2016

What Did God Say?

"Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"
And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"
Genesis 3:1-3 (NKJV)

Good communication is wonderful and miscommunication can cause problems.  Communication is more than the words we speak, it is also how we say those words and our intention behind them.  It is important to be clear with what we say and it is equally important that we understand what was said.  Reflective Listening is a communication method that involves the person listening repeating back to the speaker what they believe was just said to make sure the message was clearly understood.  This can be a good way to make sure that what was said and what was heard are the same so that there is no miscommunication.

Most people know the story of Adam and Eve and how the serpent talked to Eve.  It is interesting to see how a misunderstanding of what God had actually said created such a huge problem.  We can see the strategy of the devil, who was speaking through the serpent, as he worked to deceive Eve by questioning what God had said.  But, the real problem started when Eve, who should have known better, misquoted what God had said and how even Adam who was there with Eve did not correct the misquote.  Unfortunately, today people are still misunderstanding and misquoting what God has said and creating problems.

The importance of accurately understanding what God has said cannot be overstated.  Sometimes people talk about what they say comes from the Bible but it is either a misunderstanding of what God has said or not something God ever actually said!  We put ourselves and others in great danger spiritually and even naturally when we misrepresent what God has said.  We need to be sure we know what God has really said and not just what our interpretation of what He said is.  A steady, continual diet of reading and studying God's Word is the way to combat this problem.  Rightly understanding what God has said will help us and the people around us.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sowing And Reaping

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will reap everlasting life."
Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJV)

The are some general principles in life that will always work no matter what.  For example, every morning the sun will rise and every evening the sun will set.  No matter what you think about it, no matter how you feel about, or what others might say about it, this is going to happen.  In the same way, if you drop something it will travel downward, because of gravity; if you save and invest money you will end up with more money in the long run than you had when you started saving and investing your money.  The things we sow in life, what we do, will produce results.

People often think of the principle of sowing and reaping only in connection with money, but it works in many different areas.  The principle of sowing and reaping is something that God has established and no matter what people want to think about it, that principle is going to work.  The Bible says that God is not going to be mocked concerning this principle.  One Greek dictionary defines the Greek word used here for "mocked" as "to turn up the nose at".  In other words, some people may think little of this, or even scoff at the principle of sowing and reaping, but it still works.  What you reap is based on what you sow.

Galatians 6:7-8 talks about sowing and reaping, especially in the area of spiritual things.  While this principle can be taken in a negative way with showing how people will reap bad results by sowing wrong actions, the positive side of this works just as well.  As we spend time doing godly things others may look at us thinking we are wasting our time.  But, God's standards and principles always work and we will reap rewards for the things we do.  We may not always reap an instant harvest of what we have sown, but as we continue to follow the Word of God we will reap the positive consequences.  As we carry out the will of God in our lives there will be rich rewards.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Choosing The Best

"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)

There is a class that I have taught in Bible school called Time Management and the title describes what the class is about, learning how to manage your time.  When I tell people that I teach this class they often respond by saying that learning to manage time is a subject they would like to hear more about.  Managing our time in the right way seems to be a more important topic than ever before because people somehow seem to have less time today than in the past.  But, our problem is not usually one of not having enough time or having too much to do, usually our problem is with the choices we make about how we spend our time.

One thing we can learn from the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 is about the importance of making right choices.  Every day we face choices about what we will do, how we will spend our time.  In the story about Mary and Martha we see that they both did something, so they had both made a choice.  Martha was busy serving and Mary was sitting, listening to Jesus.  While Martha had chosen something to do that was good, there was something at that time that was better.  It was not as though Martha had chosen to do something unimportant or was wasting time, it was that Mary had chosen what was best.

We can fill our time with activities, even good and godly activities, and never really make the right choices about how we spend our time.  Rather than allowing our time to be filled with just running from one thing to the next we need to take a look at how we spend our time in light of God's Word and His plan for our life.  Is what we are doing helping us to live out the Word of God in our life and accomplish what He wants us to do?  We need to base the priorities of how we spend our time on God's Word and His will.  It is our choice how we spend our time and we need to make the best choice.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

No Pressure

"And I have led you forty years in the wilderness.  Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet."
Deuteronomy 29:5 (NKJV)

Have you ever felt under pressure in a situation where it seemed like if you did not do everything right there would big problems?  There are some legitimate pressure situations that people do have to deal with, like a doctor performing surgery, a pilot flying an airplane, or someone operating a sensitive piece of equipment.  Most of the time, however, people are not in real pressure situations like this but they do feel like they are under pressure.  The reason we sometimes feel like this is because we believe that the outcome of our situation is depending completely on us and if we make a mistake we will end up with a disaster.

There are times in life where we do have to use some skill and ability to get a certain thing done, but generally speaking we often only feel pressured because we place too much emphasis on what we do and our own efforts.  We can have the same attitude in our relationship with God where we think everything depends on us and we forget how much God loves us and what Jesus has done for us.  The story of Israel in the wilderness is good to remember because even when they had done wrong God still took care of them.  They missed God's best and did suffer through some negative consequences, but God still found a way to work in their lives and help them.

God is so loving, gracious, and merciful that He did all He could to help Israel in spite of their failures and shortcomings.  This is not to say that it does not matter how we live or that disobeying God is alright, but too often we feel pressured in a situation because we think if we fail God will forsake us and we will be doomed.  Yes, we should live according to God's Word but we should also learn to rely on our wonderful Heavenly Father to be there to help us in every situation.  Next time you feel under pressure to perform in life remember everything that God has done through Jesus and realize that the pressure is off of us and good things are ahead!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Building Trust

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths."
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Some things can take longer to build than others and this can depend on a number of factors.  One thing that determines how long it will take to build something is the quality of what is being built.  You can build something very quickly, but most of the time those things do not have a very high quality to them.  It may take longer to build something the right way but it is always better to build something the best way possible so that it will stand the test of time and not be something that falls apart quickly.  In the same way, trust is not something that is normally built quickly but something that develops over time.

To trust someone means that you know them; the better you know someone the greater your trust can be.  Proverbs 3:5-6 says that we should trust in the Lord with all of our heart and acknowledge Him in all of our ways.  It can be easy to trust in the Lord a little bit and to trust in ourselves a lot and to acknowledge God in some ways but not in others.  In our walk with God it may seem that our level of trust in Him is very high, but when difficulties arise then we come to find out that we don't really trust in God and acknowledge Him as much as we thought we did.  The solution to this is to get to know God better through His Word and by spending time with Him in prayer.

It is one thing to know that the Bible says God does not lie (Hebrew 6:18), He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), and He will supply everything we need (Philippians 4:19), but it is another thing to completely trust Him about these things.  To develop our trust in God we need to be in an intimate relationship with Him.  Then, no matter what happens in our life, we are confident that God will do exactly what He has already said because we completely trust Him.  Wherever you are in your walk with God take it to another level and learn to trust Him more than ever before.  Trusting in God and acknowledging Him in every area of our life is the best way to live!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Inspiration Or Perspiration?

"And the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea."
Exodus 14:15-16 (NKJV)

Balance is very important.  If you lose your balance you might fall and get hurt.  If you are setting up stereo speaking you need to put them in the right place to balance the sound.  In religious circles there has been a debate for many years about the sovereignty of God and the will of man.  Some believe that because God is all powerful He can and will do whatever He wants to do, no matter what people might think or want to do for themselves.  Other people believe that while God is all powerful it is up to us who believe in God to act on His Word in faith and if we don't then God will not do anything. This is how things often are, there are two extremes and in the middle is where you find the truth.

Everything is not just up to God, inspiration, and everything is not just left to the work of man, perspiration; there is a part God plays and a part we must play.  While God is all powerful there are still some things that He wants us to do.  We repeatedly see situations in the Bible like what happened with Moses by the Red Sea, God had already given Moses something to use in the situation.  Moses had to stretch out the rod believing that God would do His part, but if Moses had never acted then God would have had nothing to work with.  The rod that Moses had was not some magic wand but it was symbolic of the power of God that would and had worked in the life of Moses.

Another example is in John 9 where Jesus put clay on the eyes of the blind man.  Jesus then told the man to go to the pool of Siloam and wash off the clay.  When the man did so he could see.  But what if Moses had not stretched out his rod, or the blind man had not gone to the pool?  Then neither one would have received what God intended.   In every situation God is ready to act but we must realize that it is not all up to the inspiration of God or the perspiration of man.  God's power alone or our work alone will not bring the right results, we must find our part and act on God's Word to receive the results we desire.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Deposits And Withdrawals

"Then He said to them, Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and things old."
Matthew 13:52 (NKJV)

There are many different banks and all of them have some unique characteristics and rules.  But, there is one rule that all banks have in common; if you want to withdraw money from an account you have to have money in the account.  That sounds pretty simple but people have been known to try and get more money out of their bank account than what they have in the account.  It is nice to be able to withdraw a lot of money from your account or to use your bank card for a purchase, but all of that is based on the idea that you have made some deposits in your account to cover the withdrawals.

In Matthew 13 Jesus compared a scribe to a householder.  Someone who owns a house would normally have some things in their house that they could bring out whenever they chose to do so.  Jesus said that a scribe, a person who spent their time studying the scriptures, who was taught about the things of the kingdom of heaven would also have some things that they could bring out.  In both cases, for a scribe or householder to bring something out of what they have, they first have to have it.  You can't give someone something you don't have and you can't bring something out that you have not first put in.

God's Word is filled with many wonderful things that will help us and other people, so we need to learn about everything that is in the Word.  As we spend time reading and studying God's Word we will make deposits into our heart that God can then bring out to help us and others.  But to bring out the truth we first have to know that truth.  John 14:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit will remind us of what Jesus has said, but to remember something means that you have already learned it.  By having some regular time of depositing God's Word into our life we will be ready for God to work in us and also through us to help others.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Don't Know? Don't Go!

"Then Jesus answered and said to them, Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner."
John 5:19 (NKJV)

Have you ever been driving in some unfamiliar area and you come to an intersection where you are not sure which direction to turn? If the direction you need to go is not clear, then you should check which way to go before proceeding further.  But what if you just decided to keep driving anyway?  What if you thought that going some direction is better than doing nothing?  What if you had the idea that if you start driving fast in one direction you would at least accomplish something rather than taking the time to sit there and check the directions?  Most likely if you just start driving without any idea of where you are going you will get lost.

Jesus is our great example and there are many, many things we can learn from Him.  One very important thing we can learn from Jesus is about what to do in every situation.  While the Bible does not give us a detailed list of every action we need to take in life we do know that the Holy Spirit will help to lead and direct us (Romans 8:14).  Jesus said in John 5:19 that He only did what He saw the Heavenly Father do.  We also read that Jesus did the will of His Father (John 5:30; 6:38), Jesus only said what His Father told Him to say (John 8:28), and Jesus only did things that pleased His Father (John 8:29).

Jesus was successful in everything He did because He only did what He knew God wanted Him to do.  Too many Christians do things just because they think it is a good thing, but it is not the thing that God wants them to do.  So many believers act before they really know if what they are doing is the right thing for them to do or not, this happens sometimes because people feel pressured and think they have to do something.  We need to follow God's direction in His Word and by the Holy Spirit to know what is right to do in every situation.   If we don't know what to do then we need to find out, but if we don't know, we don't go.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

A Lifestyle Of Faith

"For we walk by faith, not by sight."
2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)

Every person has some kind of lifestyle.  Our lifestyle is our unique way of living; it is how we do things.  How we live is often a result of how we were raised, where we live, and the values we consider important.  We of course all like to have a type of lifestyle that we enjoy and one that fits with how we believe life should be.  No one would normally choose a lifestyle that would lead them into problems.  If there were bad things coming into our life as a result of our lifestyle choices, then any wise person would make the necessary changes.

There is a certain type of lifestyle that God has planned for His children, it is a lifestyle of faith.  In 2 Corinthians 5:7 it says that we walk by faith.  The word "walk" here is really referring to a way of life and not just an occasional stroll somewhere.  The way a Christian is supposed to live is by faith and nothing else.  Faith is based on what God has said and a lifestyle of faith means that no matter what happens our life is based on and governed by what God has said in His Word.  What we do and what we say must be founded on God's Word, this is what it means to walk by faith.

It is very easy to live a life based on what we see, hear, feel, and think; but this is not a lifestyle of walking by faith.  Too many people are mainly focused on what their circumstances and senses tell them and not on God's Word.  We must follow the guidelines God that has given us for every area of our life and Hebrews 11:6 even says that without faith, without a life lived by faith, it is impossible to please God.  God has given us His Word but it will not produce the desired results in our life if we do not act on it.  The lifestyle of faith is the best way to live, it is the way that God has designed us to live.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Have You Graduated Yet?

"that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ -"
Ephesians 4:14-15 (NKJV)

Every school year there are graduations.  Graduation is not really an end but a time of transition.  For example, those who are graduating from a high school are transiting into college or university, some trade school, or into the work world.  Those people graduating from college, university, or some other school are transiting into a time when they will put all of the things they have learned to use.  To have a graduation, or a transition, means that there has been some development.  Without learning, growth, and development a person will have no transition or graduation but they may have to do more courses or go back to redo the school.

Spiritually we are in a continual state of learning, growth, development, and even graduating from one level of spiritual maturity to another.  The Bible talks a lot about spiritual growth and development.  In Ephesians 4, and in other places, Paul talked about believers growing up and doing their part in the plan of God.  Paul said in Ephesians 4 that we need to stop being children who are so easily swayed and grow up in all things.  We need to know who we are in Christ and take our place in the Body of Christ so that we are able to do our part and contribute to God's work in the earth.

As Christians we should be growing from one level of spiritual development into another.  But for us to graduate and move into another level of spiritual maturity we need to learn and grow.  If we do not learn, grow, and develop then we will not move forward in the plan and purpose that God has for our life.  Spiritual growth and development come through learning God's Word and putting it into practice in our lives.  God needs mature, spiritually developed believers to help carry out His plan on the earth; if we remain spiritual children, we limit the amount of things God can do through us.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

What We Do And Who We Are

"Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples."
Luke 11:1 (NKJV)

Several years ago I had a job that involved training people to work on different machines.  While I was not an expert at operating all of the machines that we had in this factory, I did know how to use them well enough to do what needed to be done.  This was one of the reasons I was put in charge of training others, I knew what had to be done and I knew how to do it.  The majority of the people I trained had no previous experience working with the machines we had but I showed them how to do the work until they could operate the machines on their own.

Jesus had His twelve disciples but there were many other people who followed Jesus besides the twelve.  As these disciples followed Jesus they learned through His teaching and His life examples how to live the best kind of life, a life connected to and in service to God.  The story in Luke 11 is interesting because we see that it was after Jesus was done praying that His disciples asked if He could teach them how to pray too.  It was not just that Jesus knew a lot of principles about prayer but Jesus knew how to pray and that was the key to Him being able to teach His disciples how to pray.  Prayer was not a theory to Jesus it was a part of who He was.

Jesus was successful in teaching His disciples how to pray, how to live by faith, how to deal with people, and how to teach and preach because Jesus knew how to do these things.  What Jesus did was not something that was separate from who He was, it was a part of Him.  Too often people learn how things work but there is no practical experience involved, theories are being passed along by people who have no real experience in what they are talking about.  What we do for God should be a reflection of our relationship with God.  What others see us do they can do too and we can teach them how, if what we do is a part of who we are.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Great Minds Think Alike

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

In my lifetime I have met people from all over the world and from all walks of life.  There have been several times when I have met someone who was very successful in the business world or in ministry.  One thing I have noticed with these successful people is that they have a different way of thinking than most people do.  There were times when I was in a conversation with someone who was successful where I realized that how they thought and how I thought was very different and I wanted to think more like them; to have their kind success I realized I had to change my thinking.

Some people have the idea that God and His thoughts are completely unknowable to us; God certainly has different thoughts than we do but we can change how we think.  How does God think, what kind of thoughts does He have?  Does God look at situations and think He will fail or does God have thoughts of success?  Does God have depressed and fearful thoughts or does God have thoughts of peace?  Does God look at people and think that they will never change or does God think He can help people?  While it is true that He is God and we are not, God has given us His Word to help us change how we think to be more like Him.

To live a successful life our thoughts must become more like God's thoughts, this is something the Bible calls renewing the mind (Romans 12:2).  Reading and studying the Bible can change how we think, which will change how we live. As we fill our mind with the Word of God we are filling ourselves with God's thoughts.  We may have old thought patterns from the past that are holding us back from doing the things that God wants us to do and that is why we need to change how we think.  As our thoughts become more like God's thoughts we will see changes happening in our lives as we are transformed to become more like Him.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Where's The Fruit?

"because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel,
which has come to you, as it has also in all the world, and is bringing forth fruit, as it is also among you since the day you heard and knew the grace of God in truth;"
Colossians 1:5-6 (NKJV)

Several years ago there was a humorous and well know television commercial that featured a couple of elderly ladies at a fast food restaurant.  They had ordered some hamburgers but when they received their order, one of the ladies looked at the hamburger with disappointment and said, "Where's the beef?" because the hamburger patty was so small.  She was obviously expecting something bigger and better.  Her idea was that by ordering this hamburger it would include much more beef than what she had received; for a hamburger to be a good hamburger there has to be some good beef.

When someone gives their life to Jesus there is a spiritual transformation, they become a new creation in Christ.  While there may not be any outward evidence of this at first the Bible is very clear that every believer should have some fruit in their life, an outward demonstration of the inward change that has taken place.  Paul wrote to the people in Colosse that the Gospel was "bringing forth fruit" in all the world as well as in them.  The words Paul used here in the original Greek show a continual process that is taking place.  Just as fruit is produced on a healthy plant there should be fruit seen in the life of a healthy Christian.

Why is it that some Christians seem to produce an abundance of fruit while others seem to have no fruit at all?  We can find an answer for this in Colossians 1:5 where Paul talked about the word of the truth of the Gospel.  Some people do not produce fruit because what they spend their time with is not the truth of the Gospel; they are producing something but it is not fruit for the Kingdom of God.  We need God's Word to help us grow and develop spiritually so that the life of God on the inside of us is seen on the outside.  So what about us?  When people look at our life do they see fruit or do they ask, where's the fruit?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Is It My Will Or God's Will?

"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

Over my years of traveling I have gone through dozens of airports in different states and countries.  In some ways all airports are very similar and in some ways they are different.  There have been times that I was in an airport looking for the right concourse and gate for my flight when I have not been sure exactly which direction to go.  Sometimes because airports look so similar I think I should go one way when actually I need to go in a different direction.  If I had not checked the information that was provided I could have gotten lost thinking I was going the right way when really I was going the wrong way.

One of the biggest questions that Christians have about the will of God is if the direction that they have is from God or if it is from them.  Sometimes people even wonder, "Was that from God, me, or the devil?" when they have some idea about what to do.  The Bible says that as believers we are led by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14).  The problem we have with decisions that we need to make is that we have trouble separating our own ideas and thoughts from the ideas that God gives us, or even from what the devil might say.  We are often very familiar with our own thoughts and emotions but not so familiar with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

We can have a hard time distinguishing between what God is saying and what our own thoughts and emotions are saying, not because God is not speaking to us but because we do not recognize His voice, His leading.  This is where the Bible can help us.  The Holy Spirit guided people to write the Bible (2 Peter 1:20-21) and so God will speak to us through His Word.  By spending time in the Bible we not only become more familiar with God and His ways, which helps us know the direction God wants us to go, but we learn to hear the Holy Spirit speaking to us.  As we spend time in the Word of God the will of God in our heart becomes clearer and clearer.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A Need To Know Basis

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come."
John 16:12-13 (NKJV)

Sometimes I like to watch movies about spies and espionage.  Often in these movies there is someone on a mission to right some wrong or even save the world.  The main character sometimes runs into a situation where things are not what they seem to be because of something else that is going on.  When the main character asks their superiors about what is happening the response sometimes is that they are asking about information that is only available on a need to know basis and the information that the character currently has is all they need to know to get their job done.

God has a purpose for each of our lives; we do not need to be in some teaching or preaching ministry leading a church or organization for God to have a plan for our life.  No matter who you are or what you are doing for God there is a plan and a purpose that needs to be followed.  God has given us His Word and He has sent His Holy Spirit to live in us to help us and to guide us.  Everything we need for our success in life has already been provided for us through Jesus.  But there are times that we feel like we are missing information and we want something more from God.  This is when we need to realize that God has us on a need to know basis.

Before Jesus went to the cross He told His disciples that there were still many things He needed to say to them, but they were not ready to hear those things.  The good news is that Jesus did not stop there but He said that the Holy Spirit would come to help us and to guide us into all truth.  The question is, what truth, what information do we need from God to do what He is calling us to do?  There may be things we want God to talk to us about but that is information that we don't need to know.  We need to operate in the truth that we do have from God and trust the Holy Spirit to give us the truth we need as we need it.  Whatever God is calling us to do, we need to realize that He knows best and will give us whatever we need when and if we need it.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Jump Right In

"Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!"
Psalm 34:8 (NKJV)

At one time or another most people have gone swimming.  The whole point of swimming is self-explanatory: to swim.  You don't go swimming to look at the water or have someone else tell you about their experience, you go swimming to swim for yourself, or else you are not swimming!  How people go about swimming is another matter.  Some people jump right in while others slowly wade into the water.  Some people just get into the water a little and decide that swimming is not right for them.  Others never get into the water and the only thing they know about swimming is what they see or hear from someone else.

In some ways being a Christian can be compared to swimming; to really find out how great the Christian life is you just have to jump right in.  Some people find out about how Jesus died for their sin and took their place on the cross so they jump right in.  Then, as the live their life for God they follow His plan and do what He says.  But, there are other people who hear the truth about God without ever acting on it.  These people might wade into things a little bit to get a feel for what church is like or they might watch how others live and think that there being a Christian is not right for them.  Sadly, these people do not know what they are missing.

There are people who take a stand on what the Bible says and live a life based on what they see in it.  These are the people who are walking by faith and not by sight and they experience the best that God has to offer.  Other people think that following God and living a godly lifestyle is not realistic or much fun, but they have never even had the experience for themselves! Too many people have missed out on the best things in life because they are holding back and not really getting into the things of God for themselves.  Christianity is not a spectator sport; we need to jump right in!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An Example To Follow

"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ."
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)

Have you ever seen someone do an imitation of another person?  Maybe they did their impersonation of some celebrity from a television show or a movie, it might even have been a politician, an athlete, or just some local person that everyone knows.  When that person did their imitation, the way you recognized who they were imitating was in the way they talked, what they said, and how they behaved.  If the person doing the imitation did not sound like the person or act like the person that they were imitating, then it was not really an imitation at all.

The Bible talks about Christians imitating God like a child would imitate their parent (Ephesians 5:1).  Paul told people to imitate him just like he imitated Christ.  The word "imitate" that Paul used is the Greek word for "follow".  In 2 Timothy 3:10 Paul mentioned to Timothy that Timothy knew Paul's teaching and way of life.  Once again Paul is showing that he was an example that others could follow.  Paul was a spiritual leader who understood that other people need examples to follow, people need to be able to see someone who is a pattern of how to live a godly life.

Christians would agree that Jesus and even Paul are great examples for us, but neither Jesus or Paul are with us on the earth today.  So while we can read about them and learn from them in that way we don't have their example for us to see and learn from and we can't ask them questions.  All of us need some good examples of what it means to live the Christians life, how we should talk and how we should live.  Each of us should also be a good example that others can follow.  If we said what Paul did, imitate me as I imitate Christ, would we be a good pattern for others to follow?  If not, what changes do we need to make to become that example that others can follow? 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Doing Some Good Things

"how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him"
Acts 10:38 (NKJV)

It may seem strange, but some people do not do what they could do because they set a standard that is too high.  This can be true in many different areas.  For example, some people think that to succeed in school they have to get the best grades and when they get less than the best they become discouraged and even quit.  Some people think that learning a new skill means that they have to be an expert at it within a short period of time, when this does not happen they give up.  The same is true with saving money, people think of saving some huge amount when really just starting by saving a small amount is a good start.

Often when people think of Jesus they remember of course that He was raised from the dead, He healed lepers, and He performed miracles.  While these are all things that Jesus did that was not all that He did, Jesus did not do miracles twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  We often just think about the amazing and miraculous things that Jesus did but Acts 10:38 says that besides healing the sick that Jesus went around doing good.  Jesus was anointed and empowered by God to do miracles but God also helped Jesus do good things for others; this is an example that all of us can follow.

God wants us to do great things but He also wants to help us in every area of our life.  Instead of thinking about doing some miracles, how would it be if we would ask God to help us be a better employee or employer, a better parent, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, or sister?  What if we would expect God to help us improve in walking in love and treating others with the respect and honor they deserve?  Maybe we don't know any lepers but do we know anyone who could use our help in some way, could God empower us to be helpful to a friend or neighbor?  What good thing can God help you to do in your life or the lives of others?