Thursday, December 28, 2017

Subject To Change Without Notice

"Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content:"
Philippians 4:11 (NKJV)

There is a saying about something being "set in stone" that refers to something that is settled, something that is not going to change.  This is the opposite of the phrase, "Subject to change without notice", which refers to something that could possibly be altered and how that could even happen without prior warning.  If given a choice, most people would prefer something "set in stone" to something that is "subject to change without notice", but the reality is that there are many things in life that can be subject to change and we have no control over those things, the only thing we can truly control is how we respond to change. 

None of us, when we are born, received a guidebook for life that showed us everything that would take place, when, or how it would happen.  But, if we had, it may have had something written on the cover like, "this is not set in stone" or "subject to change without notice".  This is because life is full of things that are subject to change.  It is not a question of whether there will be any changes in our life, but it is a matter of our learning to be able to deal with the inevitable changes we will all face as well as being at peace and having joy no matter what comes.

Some people like the security they have in their way of life, they think they know exactly how things should be, so they don't like it when things change, they become inflexible.  When something new comes along that challenges their set ideas they resist a change, even if it is for the better.  This does not mean, however, that every time something new comes along we change what we are doing, that is not being flexible, that is being gullible.  As we go through life, and especially as we come to a New Year, we need to have a proper attitude about things by not only realizing that things will change but that sometimes a change is necessary.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Christmas Spirit?

"Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.  For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you."
Luke 6:38 (NKJV)

Every year around Christmas, and as the current year draws to a close, you can find different organizations asking people for donations and gifts.  One reason this happens is because people tend to become more generous around this time of the year.  People will often say that they get in "The Christmas Spirit" and they are more interested in giving, because typically this is the time of the year when people exchange gifts and people somehow seem a bit more gracious and generous.  But, what often happens is that most of the gracious and generous attitude disappears as soon as January comes around.

While it is a good thing to give gifts around Christmas, donate to charities and religious organizations, and to be generous and help others during the holiday season, it does not have to end there.  If people kept their gracious and generous attitude and actions for the entire year the world would be a much better place.  We, especially as Christians, need to maintain a year-long attitude and lifestyle of living to give.  We should not just limit our doing good and giving to the time around Christmas, but we should do it all year long.

As it tells us in Luke 6:38, as we give it will be given back to us.  This shows us the principle that is repeated throughout the Bible of sowing and reaping, and it is the main principle that the Kingdom of God operates on.  Whether it is being nice to people, giving money to a person or organization, or simply speaking kind and encouraging words to others, the things that we give out, or sow, in life, whether positive or negative, we will receive back, it is what we will reap.  We all need to look for ways to give to others all year long and know that as we give we will receive.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Hearing, Recognizing, And Understanding

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me."
John 10:27 (NKJV)

Several years ago, I was traveling by plane to speak at a church.  Before arriving, my pastor friend, who I had attended Bible school with, sent me a text message saying that he would be waiting to pick me.  But, after I arrived and stepped outside of the terminal, I found myself in a large crowd of people.  I looked for my friend but did not see him, until I heard his voice from somewhere behind me.  Once I turned around and I heard him call my name again I saw him.  Among all those people, who were also speaking, I not only heard his voice but I recognized it, because I knew his voice so well from our many years of friendship.

Recently I was thinking about what Jesus said in John 10:27, He said that His sheep hear His voice and they follow Him.  But, there can be a difference between hearing God's voice and recognizing and understanding His voice.  God is always speaking to us in His Word and He will speak to us in our heart as we spend time with Him in prayer.  God is ready to speak if we are ready to listen.  It could be that we are actually hearing God's voice but we do not realize that it really is God speaking to us. But, we can develop in our sensitivity to hearing the voice of God.

The problem is usually not that God isn't speaking to us, it is most often that He is speaking but we don't recognize His voice and we don't understand what it is He is saying.  Just like with my pastor friend, whose voice I knew well and was able to distinguish from the many other voices in the crowd, the more time we spend with God the better we will know His voice.  We need to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer to become more and more familiar with His voice so that it is easy for us to recognize Him speaking to us and so we can also understand what He is saying to us.

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 so 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 the 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 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 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.

Christians today 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 words.
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. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Laborers Or Warm Bodies?

"Then He said to His disciples, The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. 
Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."
Matthew 9:37-38 (NKJV)

In my life I have had many different jobs, doing a wide variety of things.  I have done some very simple things, like working in a store taking payments from customers and I have had some jobs that were more labor intensive.  I have also had some jobs where I was in a position to oversee others and manage the business, file reports, and deal with customers and their complaints.  One thing all of my jobs have had in common was that before I started the work I had to go through a process of training to be ready to do the work, even if I had done something similar in the past.

No matter what type of work you do you will need some training and you will probably also have to undergo some continued education.  This is something that is understood in the business world and no one would raise a question about it.  But, when it comes to the things of God, serving in our church, and doing our part in God's Kingdom, we sometimes think that if we just love Jesus we can start doing whatever we want and somehow it will all work out.  Some Christians think that somehow, by the power of the Holy Spirit, everything will happen the way that it should no matter what we do.

When Jesus saw the multitudes He said that the harvest was great but the laborers were few.  Jesus told His disciples to pray for more laborers to be sent out into the harvest.  Jesus did not really say that just more people were needed, He said more laborers were needed.  God is looking for Christians who have grown up spiritually and developed the necessary skills to do the required work in the harvest field.  There is a place for every Christian in the harvest today, but we need to be trained laborers and not just warm bodies; the more development and training we have, through the Word and by the Holy Spirit, the more effective we will be.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Receive Or Resist

"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)

If someone offers you something there are two basic reactions you can have, you can receive what they offer, or you can reject it.  If someone tried to give you something that was not very good it would be natural to resist accepting it.  But, it would be strange for anyone to be offered something good and beneficial without that thing being received.  Normally, we like to receive good things, but if someone tries to give us something and we don't understand the true value of that thing, we might not be so excited about it.  This could result in our resisting something instead of receiving it as we should.

The Bible is filled with good things that we need to know, but we still need to receive those things.  In the Book of Acts, we learn about the people of Berea who, we are told, "received the word with all readiness of mind".  Not only did they receive the Word, but it tells us about their attitude towards the Word of God, they received it with "readiness of mind".  In other words, they were eager to receive the Word rather than having a questioning attitude about it and not being sure if they really wanted what was being offered to them.  They did not resist the Word but they were ready to receive it.

There are times when we might hear the truth of God's Word, but we are not too excited about what it tells us.  There are times we will see things in the Bible that show us where we need to make changes in our life, to either stop doing something that is out of line with the Word or to begin doing something we have failed to do in the past.  James 1 talks about receiving the Word and then doing the Word; if we resist what God has said and we don't receive the Word then we certainly can't do it.   We all need to be like the Bereans and be ready and eager to receive the Word and to do the Word.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Holy Spirit Notifications

"Then Moses said, "I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn"
So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am.""
Exodus 3:3-4 (NKJV)

Today nearly everyone has a cell phone.  Cell phones, which are also called smart phones, are very useful because of the different things they can do.  While cell phones can obviously be used for calling other people, you can also do things on social media through a cell phone and get news updates.  For many of the different things that are available to you through your phone, there are often notifications that apps will use to let you know that something has happened.  Whatever it is, maybe something on social media or a news or weather alert, the notification lets you know there is something for you to see.

God wants us to know His will, but He will never force us to do His will, He will work to direct us into His plan.  There will be times in our walk with God that we have a similar experience to what Moses had with the burning bush.  In this story, we sometimes just notice that God spoke to Moses and miss the fact that it was not until Moses turned aside to see what was happening that God actually started to speak to him.  This is similar to notifications we get on our phone, the notification itself is not the main thing, the notification is letting us know that something is going on that we should be aware of. 

God has given us the Holy Spirit, who lives in us to help us and guide us, and we will receive Holy Spirit notifications to make us aware of something that we need to know about.  God will get our attention through something in the Word or some "idea".  Then we need to pay attention to those things and, like Moses did, turn aside from whatever it is we are doing to put our focus on God to allow Him to speak to us.  Remember, God did not speak to Moses until Moses turned to give his attention to the burning bush.  God wants us to know His will and as we pay attention to the Holy Spirit notifications He gives us we can walk in His will and carry out His plan for our lives.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Danger, Stay Away!

"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God,
having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!"
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NKJV)

Things and places that are dangerous often have warning signs designed to let you know about the possible danger.  For example, there may be a warning sign informing you of the danger of high voltage electricity.  Some places have fences or other barriers to keep people from getting too close to something that could be a possible danger to them.  On some hiking trails and in mountains there are fences to keep people from getting too close to the edge of the path or the mountain.  While there may be many different types of signs or fences designed to keep people away from danger, if someone does not pay attention to them there can be problems.

In 2 Timothy 3 we have a list of things that we are told will be prevalent among people in the last days and we are told that these are the kind of people we need to stay away from.  We have a specific list of things, and that is helpful, but if we do not stay away from people who exhibit these characteristics we can have problems.  While it is true that we need to do all we can to help people with problems, we also need to be wise and led by the Spirit in all that we do and we need to make connections with people for the right reasons, because who we spend our time with is important.  Ministering to and helping other people is one thing, becoming close friends with them is another.

It is impossible to live a life of isolation where you never interact with people who have problems or act wrongly.  But, we do not have to intentionally spend our time with these kinds of people.  Yes, we may have family members or coworkers who act in a wrong way and we need to pray for them, but we must heed the warning that the Bible gives us about staying away from the wrong kinds of people, as much as we are able, because people with wrong attitudes and habits can have a negative influence on us.  We need to be wise and choose the right kind of companions and make sure we stay away from the wrong kind.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Here I Am ...

"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)

Have you ever had the experience of going to a store to buy something and then finding out that the thing you wanted was not there?  I have had this experience more than once.  There were times I had planned to get something, and I had even done some research about the thing I wanted to buy, only to then find out that the item was not in the store.  What I wanted was somewhere, but it was not where I needed it to be for me to actually buy it.  I have even had a store employee tell me that the thing I wanted was available, but it was not where I was, so even though it existed somewhere else it was not available for me.

In both Isaiah 6 and Acts 9 we have stories about people who heard the voice of God.  In both cases God was looking for someone to do something.  In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah heard God speaking and asking who would go and then speak to the people.  Isaiah replied that he was available and that God could send him.  In Acts 9 God spoke to a disciple named Ananias to go and pray for Saul of Tarsus, who had just met Jesus on the road to Damascus.  The first response from Ananias was to try and explain to God how this Saul was a bad person and dangerous.  The good news is that after his initial hesitation Ananias did finally agree to go and pray for Saul.

Being available means more than just existing somewhere, it means being ready for use.  God spoke to both Isaiah and Ananias, but at first Ananias was not really willing and available to do what God had said.  We sometimes have the same problem in that God will speak to us about something and we think we have to explain the situation to Him, as if He does not already know about it.  But, if God asks us to do something we can be sure He will help us to do it.  We need to be available, ready, and willing to do whatever it is God asks us to do.  Today God is still asking people to go and do different things in different places; are we ready to say "Here I am, send me"?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Keeping The Peace

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."
John 16:33 (NKJV)

There are many different countries in the world and many different kinds of people.  Within many countries today you can even find a variety of people and cultures represented where there are some obvious differences and other things that are not so obvious.  But, no matter where you go or who you meet, there is one thing that everyone in the world has in common, we all face difficulties in life.  Whether it is something big or small, challenges come to one and all.  It is an inescapable fact of life that we all have to deal with problems, the difference is in how we deal with them.  

No one can control everything that happens in their life.  But, God does not want us to live a life where we are overrun by our problems, God wants us to live in peace and walk in victory.  Some Christians who learn about the authority we have in Christ have the mistaken idea that if we just know how to use our authority and take a stand in faith on God's Word that we can live a life without problems.  But, when we look at Paul, who wrote more about our authority in Christ than any other biblical writer, and even Jesus, we see that they often faced difficult situations.  What we should notice is how they dealt with those things. 

Jesus said that He had spoken some things to the disciples so that they could have peace, even though they would have problems.  Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God surpasses all understanding, so we know God's peace is not a mental thing; as Jesus said, our peace is based in God's Word.  If we face problems without a foundation of the peace of God we can make bad decisions and allow ourselves to be overcome by emotions and negative thoughts.  We need to always focus on what God's Word says so that we stay in peace and find the path to victory that God has for us.  The peace of God is something we can and should experience at all times, no matter what we are facing.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Finish Your Course

"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."
Acts 20:24 (NKJV)

When I was in high school I was involved in the sport of cross country.  This is a race of three miles that was usually run over a course through fields and forests and not on a track, where running events are most often held.  Running a three-mile race and the training required for it can be challenging and not everyone who starts the sport continues with it.  I remember times where I wanted to quit, especially when the weather or other conditions made the running more difficult.   But, like all the other runners, I knew that if I quit I would not finish the race and the whole point was to finish, and to finish well.  

In the Book of Acts, Paul compared his work for God to a race.  In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul told Timothy that he had finished his race, Paul had successfully fulfilled the will of God for his life.  This is the goal that all of us should have as well.  We don't want to just start our race for God or only run a part of it.  Our goal should be like Paul that one day we too can say that we have finished our race.  Paul also knew that the race he ran would be difficult, and we must also realize that just because we are a child of God it does not mean that every part of our race for God will go smoothly, but we keep going anyway.

Some people think that because Paul was an apostle that it is only he and other spiritual leaders, like pastors, who have a race to run for God.  That is one of the reasons so many do not finish their race, they don't even know that they are in one!   No matter who we are, we have a race to run.  We must recognize that serving God and doing His will is how we run our race.  We can find the guidelines for our course in God's Word, and the Holy Spirit has been given to us to help us successfully run our race.  We need to be like Paul and be determined to finish our course and fulfill the will of God for our life.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Are You There?

"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,
knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ."
Colossians 3:23-24 (NKJV)

Have you ever had the situation where you were at a certain place or event, but you were not really "there".  You can be somewhere physically but not really be there by not being connected to what is happening.  You can smile, act like you are paying attention, and go through the motions of participating, and still not really be involved in what is going on.  This can also happen with our job, we may not want to be there but we do what we have to do, maybe half-heatedly, and put our time in.  While all this can and does happen, it is not the best way to do things.

If we consider something to be valuable it will make a difference in how we treat it, which will make a difference for us and also have an influence on others.  It is important for us to be connected to and actually involved in what we are doing where we are, and this is especially true when we talk about what we do for God.  It can be easy to just go through the motions of going to church, and even being involved working in the church, without really being there and connecting with what is happening.  We need to invest ourselves into whatever we are doing as believers because what we do should all be done for God. 

We can be somewhere physically and not be connected to what is happening by not putting our best into whatever it is we are doing.  We can be involved in something and not really be there because we are distracted by something else.  We need to keep our focus on God and His overall plan and not just on ourselves and what we think is important.  We have to realize that what we do for God matters for eternity and even if it is not something that seems important to us it is something that can help other people.  Are we really involved in what we are doing, are we really there, or do we need to recommit ourselves to giving our best in all that we do?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Testing Comes First

"But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless."
1 Timothy 3:10 (NKJV)

Every product usually goes through some kind of testing before it is put on the market.  No company that wants to be successful will just create something and start selling it before they know that it will actually work, that it will be a benefit to people, and that it will not harm anyone.  This is a process that has been used for years by many companies to be sure that the products they want to sell will in fact be profitable.  No company would be foolish enough to intentionally start trying to sell something that was not first tested; if they did the results would be disastrous.

This principle of testing something before it is ready to be used can also be seen in the Bible.  When Paul wrote to Timothy about the kind of people who would serve as deacons, Paul told Timothy that these people first had to be tested and then they could serve, if they were found to be blameless.  Paul was talking about deacons, someone who would do things like serve food.  This would be the same kind of person that was talked about in Acts 6 where they looked for seven men of good reputation, who were full of the Holy Spirit, and wisdom.  In 1 Timothy 3 and Acts 6 we see that both times they were looking for people who had already proven themselves.

When Paul wrote about elders, bishops, and deacons, he listed qualifications that those people needed to have before they could fill those positions.  To know if they had the necessary qualifications those people had to be tested.  Before we step into the things that God has planned for us there will also be a time of testing.  This does not mean God will send sickness and problems to us, but with all of the things we are doing in our life, in our relationship with God, and in where we are already serving in our church, we are really being tested.  God has good things in store for us, but to be ready and in the right position for those things we must first be tested and proven faithful.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chasing Waves

"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,"
Ephesians 4:14 (NKJV)

Waves can be created by different things like the wind or a boat.  For many years I lived by the Rhine River in Germany and every day barges and boats would go up and down the river, and as they passed by they would create waves.  One day, I was down by the river and I noticed a woman walking her dog.  This dog was running up and down the bank of the river chasing the waves that had been created by a passing barge.  When one wave would crest and disappear the dog would see another wave and start chasing after that one.  The dog was very busy chasing all those waves, but he never had an effect on any of them.

Instability, impatience, and difficulty paying attention are all characteristics of childhood.  Paul, and other writers of the New Testament, compare spiritual growth to natural growth.  God has a place and purpose for each Christian, and God's plan is for His children to grow and develop into spiritual maturity and take their place in the Body of Christ.  However, to find that place and to fully carry out that purpose requires mature, stable believers.  But, Christians are often running here and there, naturally and spiritually, chasing the latest wave that they see, and there are many winds that blow in life that can create waves.

Sometimes Christians are caught up in the latest popular wind of doctrine and they spend time pursuing those seemingly new, and exciting teachings.  On the other hand, some Christians go from one crisis and difficulty to the next, and they never get fully established in the truth of God's Word because they are constantly running around putting out the latest fire that has broken out in their life.  We all need to continually develop ourselves in the truth of God's Word and to learn to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  By doing this we will not only be stable, mature Christians but we will avoid the trap of just chasing every wave that we see.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Are You Waiting For Perfect Conditions?

"He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap."
Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NKJV)

We all like things to go smooth and easy and to have everything fall into place for us.  Sometimes we want to wait for everything to be just right before we do something, but this does not always happen.  Sometimes people don't do things because they are always finding a reason not to do it, rather than finding a reason to do something no matter what. There may never be a perfect time to start a business or start a new job, and farmers plant and harvest crops when it is time to do so, not just on nice, sunny days.  If we always wait for perfect conditions we may never get started on anything!

The Bible tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we walk by faith, not by sight.  This means we act, we sow, we do things, based on what God says in His Word and by the leading of the Holy Spirit.  If we are waiting, looking at the natural circumstances, economic conditions, what others are saying, or how we feel about something, we might never do anything.  While it is always good to plan ahead, use wisdom, and get advice on the best way to do things, sometimes we have to be bold and take a step and not wait for perfect conditions that may or may not ever exist.   If we know God is leading us to do something that is in line with His Word then we know it is time to act.

Sometimes we do not take action because we are seeking perfect conditions, which really means that we are looking too much at the natural side of life.  The Bible is filled with examples of people who, naturally speaking, did not have such perfect conditions, but did something anyway and saw great results.  Paul's ministry is an example of this.  Paul faced many difficulties but he never quit and he kept moving forward with God's plan for his life, no matter what conditions he faced.  If we wait for the perfect conditions we may never act, but, as we step out in faith on God's Word, and at His direction, we will achieve great things for God!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Take Two

"Only Luke is with me.  Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry."
2 Timothy 4:11 (NKJV)

Most people enjoy music, movies, and television programs.  Of course, not every kind of music, movie, or television show is good, but generally speaking these are things that people enjoy.  The music we listen to and the movies or television shows we watch are the result of people working to get everything just right.  The majority of the time things do not work as well as they should the first time around, so they will usually try again, or as they say, "Take Two", in an effort to get a better result.  This same principle holds true in other areas of life, things don't always work right the first time so we need a second attempt to get it right.

There is a great example of this principle in the New Testament.  In Acts 13:5 we see that Mark went with Paul on Paul's first journey to preach the Gospel.  But, after just a short time, Mark left Paul's group and returned to Jerusalem.  People have many ideas about why this may have happened, but the Scripture does not really tell us.  Later, as Paul was about to take another trip, in Acts 15, Paul refused to have Mark travel with him again because Mark had not continued on with the group on the first trip.  Mark had a bad reputation at this point, but the good thing is that this is not the end of the story of Mark.

Paul did not approve of Mark leaving the group on the first journey.  But, in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul asks Timothy to bring Mark with him because Mark is "useful to me for ministry".  That is quite a change from what happened previously.  The lesson we can all learn is that no matter how things start we can have a "Take Two".  God, and godly people, will not give up on us.  God will help us to get past the mistakes and problems of our past to be people that are useful to Him in His Kingdom.  How about you?  Do you need a second chance, a Take Two?  If so, God is ready to help you turn things around and bring you to the place of being a significant part of His work on the earth today!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Doors And Opportunities

"Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ's gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord,"
2 Corinthians 2:12 (NKJV)

Opportunities are like doors, they give us access into places that we were previously not able to enter into.  But, just like every time you see an open door you know it does not mean that you are supposed to enter in, every opportunity that we find is not necessarily a good opportunity.  There are different kinds of doors just as there are different kinds of opportunities.  Some doors look very different from others and if we are not careful we may mistake a door for something else.  If we pass up a door or miss an opportunity we could lose out on something very important.

In 2 Corinthians 2:12 Paul said a door had been opened for him to preach the Gospel.  In Colossians 4:3 he asked the people of Colosse to pray for him to have an open door to be able to speak the Word of God as he should.  Paul knew that God was the only One who could open some doors and bring him the opportunities he needed to do what God had called him to do.  But, just because a door opens it does not mean that everything is going to work out perfectly for us.  As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 16:9, a door of opportunity had opened to him but there were some adversaries.

God will open doors and bring us opportunities that no man ever could.  But, do we always recognize those opportunities?  And, when a door opens, are we ready and able to go through that door?  God could have given Paul many opportunities to preach, but if Paul had not recognized or taken advantage of them nothing would have happened.  If Paul had not properly prepared himself he would not have been ready to preach the Gospel or he may not had been able to deal with the adversaries that opposed him.  God will bring us the opportunities we need to do His will, but it is up to us to recognize them and step through the doors that He opens for us. 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

God Will Reveal It To You

"I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this in mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you."
Philippians 3:14-15 (NKJV)

Over my years in ministry, and even personally, I have traveled to many different places in different countries.  No matter where I go, there is always a destination I am headed towards.  It would not make much sense to take trip with no idea about where to go, and it would make even less sense to start a trip with absolutely no plan of how to reach the destination.  If there is a journey to make, then there must be a goal in mind and to reach the goal you have to have a plan about how to get there, which normally would include taking the best route possible.

God wants us to know His will and to fulfill His plan for our lives.  Some people get very concerned about whether or not God really wants to show us what to do, especially if we make some mistakes or go off course at some point.  But, we are His children and He wants the best for us, and this includes knowing and understanding His will.  In Colossians 1:9 Paul told of how he was praying for those believers to be filled with the knowledge of God's will with all wisdom and spiritual understanding.  God does not just want us to know what to do, but He also wants us to know when to do it, and the best way to do it.

In Philippians 3 Paul talked about leaving the past behind and pressing toward the goal that God had for him.  He went on to say that this is how mature believers should think.  But, Paul also said that if we are not having the right goal in mind then God will reveal that to us.  We don't have to live in fear of missing God's plan because, as Paul said, God will reveal to us what we need to know.  As long as we are not in complete rebellion to God and refusing to listen to Him, God will guide us and direct us by the Holy Spirit into His plan and purpose for our lives.  God's wants us to know and fulfill His will and He will help us and guide us to be able to do that.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Connections Are Important

"from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love."
Ephesians 4:16 (NKJV)

Connections are important.  Without the right connections, you can have some big problems.  We have machines that would not function if they were not connected to the proper power source.  We have pipes that transport water, gas, and oil that would be unable to do so if the connection was broken at some point.  Our bodies are filled with connections; our nervous system, our blood supply, and the different parts of our body must be properly connected or we could die.  It is vital to have the right connections for things to continue to operate the way that they should.

God created us to have relationships and connections with other people.  God Himself said it was not good for man to be alone.  We need to make the right connections with the right people.  There are people we need to be connected to for us to help them, and there are people we need to be connected to so that they can help us.  We cannot help someone, and they cannot help us, if we are not connected to them in some way.  The right connections will help us and build us up, while the wrong connections will hinder us in our relationship with God and in fulfilling His will for our lives.

Ephesians 4:16 says that every part of the body has something to give to help the whole body.  But, if some part of the body is disconnected how can it give the supply that it has?  This is what we see so often in the body of Christ, the Church.  Too many believers are disconnected, or if they are connected they are not involved anywhere so they are not giving their supply.  Every one of us is an important part of the body of Christ and we need to give our supply to the other parts.  As we all do our part the body of Christ will grow, but it can only grow if the right connections are maintained.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Follow Him

"And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.
Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."
They immediately left their nets and followed Him.
Going on from there, He saw two brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them,
and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him."
Matthew 4:18-22 (NKJV)

Any type of journey means traveling from one place to another.  If you never move from where you are you will never get to where you want to go.  Also, when traveling to some other place you have to have some directions and then follow those directions to reach your destination.  Sometimes, depending on the journey, you not only have to leave your current location but you may have to leave some other things behind as well, and if you don't you won't be able to take the trip.  For example, to travel by airplane there are restrictions to the amount of luggage you can bring with you.

We don't really know every story of how all the disciples met Jesus, but in Matthew 4 we can see how Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to follow Him and we can learn some important lessons.  For example, these disciples were not some unemployed, homeless people who had no purpose in life.  These four disciples were part of a business, and in the case of James and John it was a family business.   But, when Jesus called them to follow Him they left everything to do so, everything!  Think what they would have missed if they had stayed where they were with what they had.

The point is not that Jesus wants us to forsake our possessions or our family.  But, to truly follow Jesus and go where the Holy Spirit will lead us, there are some things we may have to leave behind.  If we try to hang on to what we have and where we are we may have a hard time following God's direction.  Does God want us to have a great life and nice things?  Yes!  Does God have a wonderful success filled plan for our life?  Yes!  But, if we put our goals, our possessions, and our plans ahead of God's we can have problems.  We need to be like the disciples who were ready to leave everything behind to follow Jesus, that leads to true success and satisfaction.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Your Own Personal Trainer And Assistant

"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever - 
the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."
John 14:16-17 (NKJV)

If you were interested in getting physically fit you could start an exercise routine at home or you could go to some fitness center.  But, no matter where you exercise you have to do the right kind of exercises in the right way to achieve your desired goals.  Some people choose to get a personal trainer to help them know what to do and how to do it, which makes it more likely for them to succeed in reaching their fitness goals than if they just did things on their own without really knowing what they were doing.  Some celebrities have personal trainers and assistants who will help them make the right choices about what to wear, where to go, and even how to invest their money.

When Jesus was on the earth He led His disciples, taught them, and showed them how to do things.  Whatever help the disciples needed Jesus was able to provide.  Then, in John 14, Jesus talked about sending the Helper, the Holy Spirit.  One interesting thing Jesus said here is that He was going to send "another" Helper.  That word "another" in the Greek language means another of the same kind, not something different.  Jesus was telling the disciples that while He was going to leave, Someone just like Him was going to come to help them.  Once we are born again we have the Holy Spirit in us and with us to direct us and help us.

In the same way that Jesus helped and guided His disciples, the Holy Spirit is now here to help and guide us.  We can look at how Jesus worked with His disciples to learn how the Holy Spirit will work with us.  We could hire a personal trainer and assistants to help us in the different areas of our life, but the Holy Spirit is better than any personal trainer or assistant, because He knows everything!  No matter what situation we may find ourselves in, the Holy Spirit is there to help us.  What assistance and help do you need today?  Look to the direction and help that the Holy Spirit will give you about what to do and how to do it successfully!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Start Small, Finish Big

"Though your beginning was small, yet your latter end would increase abundantly."
Job 8:7 (NKJV)

Normally, the way something starts is not the best indication of how it will end or what the final result will be.  One brick can be the beginning of a huge cathedral, one small seed can be the start of a large tree, and one dollar in the bank can be the first step towards financial stability.  If we judge the future of things just by the beginning we can have a wrong perspective that can hinder the development of that very thing.  If we think one brick is not enough for a building we may never start the construction, one seed may look too small to plant, and one dollar can be spent as easily as it is saved or invested.

One thing that is great about God is that no matter where we are now there is room for improvement.  No matter what things look like now, no matter how dark things may seem, and no matter how far away we may be from our goal, with God on our side all things are possible.  God's plan for us is to have a bright future.  But, if we try to judge our future by our present circumstances we could lose all hope for a successful outcome in our situation.  We may be in a place that is nowhere near where we should be or where we want to be, but, we don't have to stay where we are forever.

Job 8:7 says that while we may have a small beginning things can increase before the end.  Even if what we have now and where we are seems too small, God can bring an increase.  In Zechariah 4:10 it asks a question about who has despised the day of small things.   The answer is that probably all of us have done this at one point or another.  But, we need to change our focus from our current position to the possibility that only God can give.  If we partner with God He can help us increase from where we are, just as if we leave God out of our life we can be sure things will not improve.  God can make something big out of something small!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Greatest Show On Earth

"and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power
which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,
far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come"
Ephesians 1:19-21 (NKJV)

The phrase "The Greatest Show On Earth" has been used as the title of a film, a slogan for more than one circus, the name of several songs, as well as in a few other contexts.  The idea of the phrase is to describe some amazing event that is at the top of its field, an event so incredible that no matter where you look in the rest of the world you cannot find anything that will top it.  But, as with most slogans and advertisements the actual event does not always live up to the hype.  Anyone can say that something is the greatest whatever and be completely wrong.

There is one event that took place in history that could truly be called the greatest show on earth, something that happened that cannot be topped or even repeated because of its immense magnitude.  When the Bible talks about the resurrection of Jesus, we are told of how this happened by the working of the mighty power of God.  The Bible shows us that when Jesus rose from the dead it was not just an act whereby He overcame natural death, but He overcame sin and spiritual death as well.  We also learn that Jesus was exalted to the position of honor and authority at the right hand of God. 

The power that raised Jesus from the dead is not something that only worked in that one situation.  God did not focus all of His power on resurrecting Jesus and then somehow turn that power off or decide to never use it again.  That same power that worked in Jesus is available for us today to not only save us and deliver us from spiritual death and the work of the devil, but the power of God is available to us for healing, deliverance, and preservation. The power of God raised up Jesus in what could truly be called the greatest show that ever took place on the earth.  The best part of the story is that this power is still available and working for us today!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Resurrection Authority

"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)

Several years ago, I went to a lawyer to have the necessary papers drawn up to give my mother power of attorney for me.  The main reason I did this was because there are times when I am in Europe that something needs to be done for me in the USA.  With the power of attorney, my mother can sign documents for me and take care of things that concern me while I am in Europe as if I were present in the USA.  Although I may not be physically located where the work needs to be done, my mother can do those things for me because of the authority granted her through the power of attorney.

When we talk about what we celebrate at Easter, most people know about Jesus being crucified, placed in a tomb, and then resurrected on the third day by the power of God.  But what most people don't realize is that just as Jesus was taken up and placed at the right hand of God, we too were spiritually placed in the same position with Him.  What does this mean for us?  To put it simply, Jesus defeated the devil and gave us the right and ability to enforce the devil's defeat.  Because of the resurrection of Jesus, Satan no longer has any right to hold us down in life and to defeat us.

Because Adam disobeyed God, sin entered the world and sin separates man from God.  Until the death and resurrection of Jesus, Satan had a legal right, because of Adam's disobedience, to enforce the penalty of sin on mankind.  But Jesus raised us up above all that by paying the ultimate price for our sin and by being the perfect sacrifice.  This means that we can live victoriously in every area of our lives.  Sadly, most Christians never grasp this concept and live defeated lives.  But thank God, through Jesus, we have authority and we are more than conquerors; today we have resurrection authority!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A "Must Have"

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing."
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NKJV)

There are some things that are considered so necessary that they are often called a "must have", something you can't do without.  These are things that are absolutely essential to the situation.  For example, if you are interested in traveling to another country you must have a passport, without a passport you are not even allowed to leave your country.  Another example would be having fuel in your car.  You can have the nicest, newest car around but if you don't have the necessary fuel your car will not move.  Or you could have the latest telephone with the latest technology, but without a network connection it is useless.

In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul talked about something that is a must have for success in the life of a believer, love in everything we say and do.  When Paul wrote about love, he was not talking about what most people commonly refer to as love, Paul was writing about the love of God, not some emotion.  In Romans 5:5 we learn that the love of God is in us and because of this we can, and should, operate in God's love.  Anything that we do or say that is outside of the love of God will not really benefit us, or anyone else.  No matter what we do, if we do it outside of love it will not have the results it should have.

Paul talked about having the ability to speak the most wonderful words, but without love it would all be just noise.  Paul said we could have knowledge, understanding, and faith, but without love it would still amount to nothing.  Paul also told us how we could do the greatest acts of kindness and charity, but without love there is no benefit to us.  There are many things that we can do that are good, but without the right motive behind it, without love, those things would mean nothing.  Love is something that is "must have" for Christians, it is essential for everything that we say and do.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Living In A New Location

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Galatians 2:20 (NKJV)

There have been several times in my life that I have moved from one place to another.  Overall, I have lived in many different places, in different states, and in different countries.  Moving from one place to another was not just a simple process that ended when I began living in my new home.  Once I had found a place and moved into it I then had to go through the process of learning to live in my new location.  Moving into a new home may also mean that we have to leave some things behind, change some things, or begin some new routines because of the new location.

When we are born again, it is like moving into a new home; we have gone from one spiritual location to another.  There are some things from the past that we will have to leave behind, we will have to change some things, and we will have to begin some new routines as we learn to live in our new spiritual location.  If we try to live the same way in our new natural location like we did in our former home, it could, and probably would, create some problems.  If we try to live as a Christian the same way that we did before we were Christians we will definitely have some problems.

Paul writes that the way he lived his new life in Christ was to live by faith in Jesus, the Son of God.  As believers, we must learn to walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), we need to access the grace of God by faith (Romans 5:2), we use our faith to overcome the world (1 John 5:4), and we now fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).  What does all that mean?  It means that because of our spiritual relocation that we can't focus on natural things anymore and we can't just follow our old ways of talking, thinking, and living as we did before.  Our new life in Christ is lived by faith in all that Jesus did for us.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Living Stones

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Any Acceptable Substitutes?

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Fill It Up!

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

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

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

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