Archive for March, 2010

A Tough Week

March 31, 2010

One of the joys of being in the family of God is experiencing the genuine concern people have for you.  I am asked weekly, “How has your week gone?”  It’s amazing to me how people really want to know.

So let me ask you, “How has your week gone?”  Since I am writing and will not hear your response, I am going to anticipate how many of you will respond.  I suspect that 70% will respond by saying. “Its been a tough week.”  I never ceased to be amazed at all the tough things people face.  For example, along with a brother in our church, I visited a middle aged couple who joined our church Sunday.  As we sat on their couch and listened to their story, it was apparent they were going through a tough time with the wife facing great physical difficulties.  The toughest part of their struggle was simply, things were out of their control.

Wow, lets be honest, the toughest part of every week are those moments when things are beyond our control.  Without a doubt some who read today find themselves in this place.

Today’s readings are from the book of Matthew, chapters 21-28.  Since this is the week leading up to Easter, I felt led to leave my reading schedule and spend the next four days reading the gospel accounts of the ministry of Christ beginning with the Triumphant Entry and climaxing with His resurrection and ascension.

Very quickly the Lord pricked my heart and reminded me, “Jesus was having a tough week.”  I thought about my week and I thought about the week other followers of Christ were having, including a brother who has lost his wife after forty-plus years of marriage. I realized our tough week’s doesn’t compare to His.  And then I was reminded that His tough week was because of my sin and because He was taking the punishment of my sin upon Himself.  I paused and praised the Lord for having a tough week on my behalf.

Then I came to chapter 26.  You remember the passage?  Jesus is in the Garden called Gethsemane.  His prayer to the Father gives us the key to getting through tough weeks.  Three times Jesus prayed, “Not as I will, but as you will,”26:39.  Jesus trusted His week into the hands of His Father.

If you and I are going to be successful with our tough week.  And be assured we have many of them in life.  We must trust our lives totally into the hands of  loving Father who knows what we need to conform our lives to Him.  Oh how I pray that you can come to a place where you trust every moment of every week into the hands of our Sovereign Lord!

I leave you with the sweet words of Jesus, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing you will receive,” Matthew 21:22.

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Born for this

March 30, 2010

One of the many benefits of being born in the hills of Eastern Kentucky was the seclusion I experienced from much of the pressures of the world.  I remember being able to dream about what I would be when I grew up.  I did not have the pressure of others telling me what I should do with my life.

Some of my fondest memories are those days when I would pretent to be one of the officers from 1 Adam Twelve or one of the fireman on Emergency. From time to time I would be a great sports star based upon what sport was being played.  It was a great childhood life, but deep inside I always knew I was born for something else.

I can still remember those days when I would play in our basement and would pretent to be a preacher like Billy Graham or a upbeat evangelist who preached like a man of another color.  Certainly you have your memories of the dreams you had for your life as well.

The question I have for you this morning is this, “What were you born to do?”  In every person’s life there will come a defining moment when you will decide, “This is what I am going to do with my life.”  However many if not most end up doing things they really are not fulfilled.

Today’s bible reading is the book of Esther.  Esther was one of offspring of one of many families who were carried off to Babylon during the seventy years of captivity.  By the time you arrive at chapter four this young lady has been favored by God to become queen. However her purpose was not to live in luxury.  Her purpose would be to stand up for her people as Satan would try to wipe out the Jewish people.  Here are the words of her uncle concerning her, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this,” 4:14.

Two significant things stand out.  First, she was not to remain silent.  Question, “How long has it been since you spoke about what you were born for?”  Maybe you respond, “Its over, that’s in the past.”  Not so my friend, God still has His purpose in mind for you.  Speak out in prayer to God, confess your failure to walk in His plan and then seek His direction for the rest of your life.  Second, she was to awaken to God’s purpose in her life.  Esther would awaken and step out and experience a great miracle.  You and I must step out in faith to accomplish what God has birthed us to do in His kingdom.

I can still see myself preaching in that basement. I used to think I could never really do this in real life. I praise God that He did not listen to my thoughts and I praise God that it was not in my power but in His that I was and am able to proclaim His word.  I know I am doing what I was born to do.

I leave you with the word of the Lord, “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel,” Acts 9:15

He’s always right

March 29, 2010

Around our house we have been blessed with three confident children.  Confidence is a great thing when it comes to many of the challenges we face in life, however it can be a dangerous thing if that confidence is based solely in self.  For instance my boys are always trying to convince each other that they are always right.  It get’s intense when they stand toe-to-toe with each other arguing that they are always right.

Again it is dangerous when one has total self-confidence.  The truth is there are often times when both my boys are wrong in their attitudes and their assumptions concerning many different things. I wonder do you find yourself struggling with the attitude that says’s I am always right.  I have been guilty with my wife, my staff, and even with God.  In these moments I have been far from what God wanted me to be.

This mornings devotion covers the 13 chapters of the book of Nehemiah.  Nehemiah was a layman who was used of God to lead Israel to rebuilt the wall surrounding Jerusalem.  I have read this book many times and I love the multitude of leadership principles that are taught within its chapters.  However this morning I was particularly gripped by chapter 9.  In chapter 9 the law of God has been read to the people and they have confessed their sins and wept.  After this several of the Levites begin to praise the Lord.  In particular Vs: 33 leaped off the page, “You are just in all that has befallen us; For you have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly.”

As I read those words I was reminded that He alone is always right in all of His judgments.  I also was reminded that I am not always right.  This helps me to keep in perspective the fact that He alone is to have the final say in every part of my life.  So the only way to be always right is to humbly submit to His judgments in life.

Think how much better our lives would be with others if it were Christ who was giving the direction, handling the conflict, given the glory, and making the choices in our lives.  I know that Keith and John would get along much better and they do when they apply this principle in their lives.  And oh by the way so do I with my wife, my staff, and with my God.

Let me encourage you to submit to His direction in your life.  Cease relying on your wits and your ways.  Remember He is always right.

Maybe you are locked in a conflict even as you read this devotion?  You find yourself at odds with family, friends, your self, and even God.  Isn’t it time you confess your pride and independence for what it is, sin.  And isn’t it time that you submit to His will in this conflict.  I promise you, when you do, your life will experience peace once again.

I leave you with the precious word of God, “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up,” James 4:10

Tears, some good and some not so good.

March 26, 2010

From my earliest memories of life, I have always been a person who easily cries because of my emotional makeup.  My Children often poke fun at me because I even cry during parts of children’s movies.  It has been said, “I cry at the drop of a hat and I carry my own hat.”

Tears are a part of every persons life.  Some people shed tears easily and some not so easily.  Some people show emotion and some people fight emotion.  In the scripture we find many instances when people shed tears.  The Psalmist writes, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy,” 126:5.

I wonder “What were the circumstances that lead to the last time you shed a tear?”  For some people it is in a time of death or tragedy that they shed a tear.  For others it is when they see someone abused.  Still yet some people cry freely about everything.

In todays devotion, II Chronicles 33 through the end the book of Ezra we find many reasons God’s people could cry.  They could shed tears because of captivity or they could shed tears because of unfair treatment.

However there is one particular moment that I want you to see.  God’s people have been allowed to return to their land (Ezra1) and they have been given the assignment to rebuilt the temple.  As the foundation is laid the book of Ezra offers the following commentary, “So that the people could not discern the noise of the joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off,” 3:13.  Imagine the scene as God’s people looked at the blessing of a new foundation being laid. Some were excited and some were upset.

The people who were excited were those who looked to the future.  Their tears were of joy.  The people who were upset were the ones who had remembered the first temple and its beauty and they wept looking back.

Question, “Who was right in their tears?”  In a sense they both were.  We should shed tears of joy and thankfulness for what God is doing and is going to do.  But at the same time we should shed tears when we think about all the times we have missed out on the blessings of God because of sin.

However the bottom line is, never look back!  Always deal with your failures and place them at the foot of the cross and move forward shedding tears of joy because you are living in obedience to the cause of Christ.

I wonder, are you facing things that cause tears?  If so, consider the reasons for your tears and then consider what would God have you do.  Crying over the past will not bring success now and in the future.  Put the past where the past belongs, which is in the past and move into the now with tears of joy because we serve a great and awesome God.

I leave you with God’s precious word, “There is a time to tear, and a time to sew,” Ecclesiastes 3:7.  I am believing it is time for you to sow!!!

Bringing home a roach!

March 25, 2010

If my wife were reading this devotion, she would already be saying, “get it away.”  As a child I had the honor of growing up in the country.  Our family lived very close to my grandparents who owned a country store.  As  life would be, there were times when in either the grain sacks or other items my grandfather received, by delivery trucks,would have several roaches in them.

When we would bring home groceries, my mother was always looking for a roach.  The same think holds true with my wife when I bring something home from stores that could house such things. She is to the max when it comes to bugs, especially roaches.

As I was reading II Chronicles 23-32, I was reminded of this as I read the story of Amazaih, king of Judah. God gave him a great victory over the people of Edom.  However the bible records he brings roach’s home with him.  Here is the commentary in Vs:14 of chapter 25, “Now it was so, after Amaziah came from the slaughter of the Edomites, that he brought the gods of the people of Seir, set them up to be his gods and bowed down before them and burned incense to them.”

When I read this, I couldn’t believe it.  How could anyone have such a wonderful blessing from God and then worship other gods?  Then the reality set in, how often do we do the same things?  How often do we allow the world to infiltrate our hearts?  How often do we fail to guard our hearts.  We allow the roach of this world to occupy much of our lives.

If we could be as series with keeping the world out of our hearts as my wife is at keeping bugs out of the house, we would be successful in walking with our God.  Certainly we know as someone said, “We must be in the world but we do not have to be of the world.”

Allow me to challenge you to place safeguards in your life that will ensure a pure heart and a pure home.  Because if you do not, the world will bug you to death!  The key is to have a loyal heart before the Lord.  I discovered with the king of Israel that he did not have a loyal heart, 25:2.

I leave you with the precious word of God, “I beseech you brethren by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God,”  Romans 12:1-2

HEAD OF THE TABLE

March 24, 2010

Recently I have noticed that my oldest son has been sitting in my seat at the table.  When I asked him why he was in my seat, he responded, “I want to sit here.”  To which his mother responded, “That’s the place reserved for your father.”

As I worked my way through chapters 13 through 22 of II Chronicles I found myself coming back time and time again to the analogy of “The Head of the table.”  For example, In chapter 13 the king of Judah found himself facing the armies of Israel.  Certainly he was outmanned and he knew that his army, on their own, could not defeat their enemies.  But notice his words to his enemies, “Now look, God Himself is with us as our head, and His priests with sounding trumpets to sound the alarm against you.  O children of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your Fathers, for you shall not prosper,” 13:12.

The King of Judah proclaimed to his enemies that God was at the head of the table.  He was the one who was Lord of their lives. He was the leader and if they were going to fight they needed to realize they were fighting the Lord.

Question, “Is the Lord at the head of your table?”  Please be careful with your response.  We often sit at the head and try to fool ourselves by saying, “Lord I am following you with all of my heart.”  Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things.”

The only sure way to know if the Lord is sitting at the head of your table is to investigate the actions of your life. You coud possible ask,  “How does a person accomplish this?”  A simple exercise will do.  Take out your calendar and for the next week, list all the events of each day when you have completed that day.  At the end of the week you will discover who sits at the head.

I remember thinking, as Keith and his mother had the discussion about the head of the table, I wish someone else could sit here.  Being at the head of the table has great responsibilities.  When It comes to the direction of my life and my families life, I am so thankful that He is at the head.

I am at peace because He is at the head of the table.  I rest in Him because He is at the head of the table.  Be assured the only way you can have victory is if He is at the head of the table. If He is at the head of your table, praise him for it.  If He is not, get out the seat and give the seat to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

I leave you with the precious truth of God’s word, “Lord, it is nothing for you to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in your name we go against this multitude.  OLord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against you,” II Chronicles 14:11

The Easy Way Or The Hard Way

March 23, 2010

As a child, I remember my dad often saying, “Son there is an easy way and their is a hard way to do things.” Admittedly, as a four year old it made not sense.  But as a grew to adulthood it began to make sense as I often choose the hard way of doing things.  I wonder, if maybe you have had the same experiences?

As I reflect back to my childhood, I believe one of the reasons I did not get what my dad was saying was simply because my dad did not have the patience to instruct me on the easy way of doing things.  My father had a very and I emphasis very short tolerance for my inability to do things.  I am not throwing stones because I have also been guilty with my children, but as I look back I realize my earthly father did not spend much time instructing me how to do things in the correct way and even worse I didn’t get the opportunity to apply, “Trial and error,” to the principle he was attempting to teach.

So, you ask, “How does this apply to my life?”  Today’s devotion covers the first 13 chapters of II Chronicles.  As you read through the chapters on Solomon’s life and his work as well as his sons, you begin to understand that our heavenly father is different than our earthly fathers.  Our heavenly Father presents to us and easy way and a hard way to live our lives.  For example, lets choose the life application of humility.  “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves,” II Chronicles 7:14.  The easy way is to humbly come before the Lord in submission and declare, “Lord I cannot live my life on my own.  Today I proclaim your Lordship in my life. Lead me in your paths and in your perfect will.”  This is the easy way.  Will we be perfect in this life? “There is no one who does not sin,” II Chronicles 6:36.  You can count on trial and error in the journey.  But be assured if you humble yourself, God will extend mercy to you because he knows the humble intent of your heart.  For further study read II Chronicles 12:5-7.

However if we choose the hard way of independence, and stubbornness with God, be assured the price will be more than you want to pay. God told Solomon, “If you turn away and forsake me, I will uproot you from the land,”  7:19-20.  We know from God’s word that Israel choose the hard way and her life was lived with hardship after hardship.
Now, allow me to get personal with you.  Are you living life the easy way or are you living life the hard way?  Certainly I am not suggesting that all hard times are as a result of doing things your way.  Often we face trials as a part of God’s growth in our lives, but more often than we are willing to admit, we face hard times because we made the decision to live life the hard way.

Through the years I have sat across the table from people who have poured out their broken hearts and it is easy to see from my side of the table that they have chosen the hard way.  But to get them to see this is not an easy proposition because they have been so bent this way that they cannot see it nor will they see it.  So God in His love allows them to go through the hard way. Dr Rogers writes, “Pride is the root of all kinds of evil.  Have you every prayed, ‘God, make me humble?’ Don’t do that.  God can bring us to humiliation, and He may.  How much better if we would humble ourselves.”

Oh how I pray that you would choose to take the easy way in what ever you are facing!  If you do, life will not be perfect, but you will have His perfect peace and you will proceed forward in Jesus name.

I am going to leave you with familiar verses, but I pray they take on fresh meaning in your life, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exault you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you,” I Peter 5:6-7.

Keith Joseph