Archive for January, 2011

Famous Last Words

January 31, 2011

Throughout history the last words of many famous people have been recorded and very often their words have great significance for those in whom the words are intended.  For example, Jesus last recorded words were to the church, “After the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you shall be my witnesses…” Acts 1:8. This morning I considered the last words of one of Jesus closest followers, Peter.

Here is what Peter writes, “And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things,” 1:15. Peter desires that his readers would clearly know the gospel.

Question, “What will those who know you, remember about you?”  Consider Peter, “Certainly we remember his boldness to trust in the Lord to walk on water in Matthew 14.  Certainly we remember his brashness in saying, ‘I will never forsake you Lord.’ Certainly we remember his brokenness when he denied the Lord and then was restored by Our Lord.”

These events are edged in our memory because they are recorded in God’s word.  But consider the following, “Peter is forever changed by what He endures.  Peter becomes a man who is a rock for Jesus.”  As Peter writes in II Peter we find him teaching us how not to fail but how to be faithful in our walk with Christ, “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” 1:8.

I want to encourage you to reach carefully the qualities found in 1:4-7.  If we daily practice these qualities we will come to the end of our lives and with clarity we will have something of value to say to those gathered around us.  I can image as the readers received this letter from Peter.  They were not focusing on his failures because they had faded in the light of the gospel that was burning so bright in the man of God’s life.  Peter’s last recorded words were of great importance as he encouraged the church to progress in their faith as they daily praised the Lord.

Here are those words, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity, amen,” 3:18. Here is a man who ready to meet his Savior.

I want to encourage each of you to live in such a way that others will see your praise and your progress in faith.  Because believe it our not, your last words will come sooner than you think!!!

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“CHANGE”

January 28, 2011

When the word “Change” is inserted in any conversation it evokes many different emotional responses.  For instance, “When my nine-year old hears his mother say, ‘change your shirt,’ he immediately begins to lobby to keep his favorite dirty shirt on just a little longer.”  When my teenager hears the word change he gets excited because he believes and enjoys change in many areas of his life.

But oh how quickly our mindset changes as we get older.  The older we get the less it seems we like change.  But change is good in many ways.  Consider Peters word’s of encouragement to the church in the first century, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy,” I Peter 1:10. As I read I Peter this morning, I began to praise the Lord for the change He has brought into my life.

This type of change is not only good, but it is desperately needed by every person who has every lived.  You and I were born in sin.  This sin causes us to live in the darkness of depravity and we do not see our need of a Savior.  The fact is we would never change, we could not change, and we would not want to change on our own.  But God did for us what we could not do on our own, “He called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.,” 1″9.

So, I can say with joy, “This change is good.”  Now here is the hard part, “Now that He has changed me eternally, I must daily commit myself to daily changing.”  I must become what He has created me to be, ‘A light to a dark world.”

Here is how Peter described it, “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable,… that they might see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” Yes I know that life can be hard, some changes seem to hurt.  Be assured God knows what He is doing and this change will turn out for your eternal good.

Be strong and ask God to daily change you from your old self into His image before the world.  Praise Him for His change today!!!

What Did He Say?

January 27, 2011

A few evenings ago, I came home late after meetings at church.  Sherry asked me a question while I was in our closet.  My response to her question was to make a comment about her question that immediately pricked the ears of John.  Mr. John who hears and understands everything in literal terms.  I did not know he was in the room.  I tried to explain to him what had been said and the more I tried the worse it got.  This was a great reminder to always pay attention to what you are saying.

Certainly our words are very important. Words are an important subject in the book of James.  The first encounter we have with words are simply these, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger,” 1:19. The beginning point of monitoring what we say is to simply monitor what we hear.  The things that we take in directly affect what comes out.   For example, “It was so refreshing to watch Andy Griffith with John last night.”  To hear him laugh at wholesome programing was a blessing. And even greater was the blessing of  our interaction time in our devotions last night.

The second encounter we have with words comes from chapter 3, “He is a perfect man who is able to bridle his tongue,” 3:2. Maturity in Christ is clearly measured by the things we say.  Now I know what you are thinking, “No one is perfect and occasionally you let a not so good word slip.”  But how does this stand verses scripture, “From the same mouth come blessings and cursing.  My brothers these things should not be,” 3:10. Brothers and sisters we must daily submit our words to the sanctifying touch of the Holy Spirit.

As we submit our words and our every thought to God, we will become people who are quick to hear what God says.  We will become people who are quick to resist those things that would cause us to speak sinful things.  And we will become people who are doers of the word and not hearers only.

Maybe you ask, “Why is this so important?”  There are many reasons including first and foremost the Glory of the Lord.  But consider how James ends his epistle, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save a soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins,” 5:20. As we speak correctly we are in a position to reach out to people who are falling away from God and we are in a position to reach people who know not Christ.

“Oh, dear Father, may my words be true and may my heart be pure in your sight.”  May this be your prayer today in Jesus name.

Something To Look Forward To

January 26, 2011

Question, “What are you looking forward to today?”  I have discovered that life has little value without anticipation and expectation.  For example, “When I get up in the morning I expect to meet with my Heavenly Father.  I anticipate great things in the day as a result of hearing and heeding what my Father direct’s for each day.”

Be assured this does not mean that each day is without trouble and trial.  Each day is often filled with obstacles and roadblocks.  But my anticipation and expectation is beyond just the moment of each day.

Consider the recipients’ of the book of Hebrews.  They were facing great trails each and every day, “But recall the former days when endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated,” 10:32. I must confess that I asked myself, as I read chapters 10-13, “Did they have anticipation and expectations in what they were facing?”  Without them, certainly they would not want to face each day.

I believe we can clearly see that they did, “For you have compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plunder of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one,” 10:34. Wow, their anticipation and expectation was not for the here and now but for the hereafter.  They were looking forward to what awaited them.

Certainly they had days of discouragement, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised,” 10:36. Certainly I believe you and I can identify with their days of discouragement.

Maybe even this day you are covered up with worries, work, and weariness in what you have been facing and what you are facing even this day.  In such moments, “We loose our joy and it seems that we just exist and we labor to get through each day.”  Brethren, in such moments we desperately need something to look forward to.

Read carefully these next words, “For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God,” Hebrews 11:10. You think you have it tough?  Consider Abraham who lived his entire life in a land where he was not wanted and he never was able to own anything other than a grave plot for his family.  But through it all Abraham’s life reminds us that this world is not our home or final destination.

For the child of God, heaven awaits and we most certainly have something to look forward to.  My prayer for you is two-fold:  1) Take heart in where you are headed as a child of God  2) Reach out to someone who knows not the gospel today.  They certainly do not have something to look forward to.

Thank You

January 25, 2011

There are moments in our lives when the appropriate words seem to escape us.  For example, “How could you find the proper words to say thank you to someone who gave you one of their kidneys in order that you might live?”

There have been so many times when people have shown me acts of kindness and I simply responded with, “Thank You.”  I wish I could say, I truly had great thankfulness each time I responded with thank you, but I would be lying.  There are times when I fail to see the significance of someone’s sacrifice and there are times when I selfishly think, “I deserve this gift and even more.”

I can honestly say, I am seeking to grow in my appreciation for all the gifts I receive. This very morning I grew in appreciation as I read Hebrews 6-10.  It seemed that with each verse God was opening my eyes to God’s wonderful gift of salvation to me.  By the time I arrived at chapter 9, words were escaping me.

“For then he wold have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” Hebrews 9:26. When I read these words, all I could say was simply, “Thank you”

Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for me and for you.  Let those words sink in today.  If they do not cause appreciation to swell up in you, something is wrong in your life.  Maybe the something could be a troubling situation that causes you to think, “I am not blessed.”

Brothers and sisters we are so blessed and the news gets better,” So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him,” Hebrews 9:28. Brothers and sisters we have a reason to say thank you.  The God who saved us is coming to receive us into heaven.

Maybe you ask, “Why has He not come?”  Hebrews 10 has the answer, “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified,” 10:14. Did you see the answer?  God who has saved us and has declared that we are perfect in position before God is perfecting us here in the process of sanctification.  God is preparing us to meet the Father.

I am so thankful for my salvation and I am so thankful for the sanctifying process that is preparing me to meet Jesus.  If you are a child of God, thank Him for all He has done and all He is doing today.  Yes, stop even now and say with heartfelt love, “Thank you!!!”

Our Source and Our Course

January 24, 2011

Yesterday evening, before church, I had the wonderful opportunity to hear the story of a dear brothers early years of life.  I love to be able to hear people’s stories.  I love to hear about what makes them tick.  Over the years there have been a few that stood out, but for each who are followers of Christ something very significant stood out, “Jesus was their source and their course.”

Maybe you are wondering,”What does this mean?”  Consider with me the first five chapters of the book of Hebrews.  The writer of this wonderful book is writing to believers who have a rich history dating back to the time of Abraham.  Their story includes such wonderful hero’s as Moses, David, and Joshua. Check out Psalm 104 to see even more of their story.

However, for the moment, let’s consider one person in their history, Jesus.  “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,” 5:8-9. Here we discover, Jesus is the source of our salvation.  Through Christ alone we are made right with God.  “He tasted death for everyone,” 2:9. The story of my life says, “Jesus is my source of eternal life and He is my source of success in earthly life.

Our Savior who is our source of life is also our course in life.  Jesus set for the pattern of life that you and I are to live.  “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted,” 2:18. Jesus Christ faced the full weight of temptation and bore it all without sin.  He knows what we face and He has set the course for us to bypass sin and to live a holy life.

The question for the day is simply this: “If your story was told today, could people clearly see that Christ is your source and course?”  For many believers their story is cluttered with days and weeks of walking other courses.

If a lost and dying world is going to see the light, they must see it in the daily course of our lives. Certainly we will not be perfect, but we must be progressing in our faith. The key is to daily spend time in the word with a heart that says, “I will obey what I read.”

If we are in the word and if we are living the word we can clearly say with the saints of old, “He is our source and course.”

When Relationships change

January 21, 2011

Throughout one’s life the average person will develop many relationships on many different levels.  For example, “As a child you will develop relationships at school.  You see your friends each day, but when you go home you file that friendship away until the next day.”  However, when a child becomes a teenager, their relationships deepen.  These class mates become people you have over or you go over and you do things with them often.  Finally you arrive at the college years or you arrive at a choice to enter the work force.  Again relationships change, especially if you have met the person of your dreams.

As we think about relationships there is one example we have not given, “Broken or strained relationships.”  Throughout one’s life, there will be many instances when relationships will hurt.  Would it not be wonderful if there was something that you could put in your relationships that would guarantee success even in the hard times?

Well, if you desire this, I have good news.  There is a way to have guaranteed success in relationships.  The way is not in something but in someone, Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is Lord of your life and Lord of those whom you have relationships with, you can guarantee you will be successful.  Notice I did not say perfect.  You will have ups and downs but you will be successful because of Jesus.

Case in study, the little book of Philemon.  Philemon was a slave owner who had been led to Christ by the Apostle Paul.  As Paul writes we discover one of his slaves has escaped.  This slave travels to Rome where Paul is in prison.  He talks with Paul and Paul leads him to Christ.  Paul in turn sends a letter to Philemon asking him to receive this slave back.  Here is an exert from the letter, “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.” 15-16.

When two people are in Christ they are identified as, “Brothers or sisters in Christ.” Question, “How many relationships do you have where you call you friend brother or sister?”  This is an awesome thing.  But it comes with great responsibility.

You are expected to be there for your brother.  You are expected to hold your brother accountable.  You are expected to do your part by being accountable.  Finally you are expected to stick with your brother through the good times and bad.

Over the years I have called many people brother and sister.  But to be honest, not all of the time has it always turned out to be true.  It is my prayer today that you and I would develop relationships that center on Christ.  It is my prayer that  you and I would deepen our relationship with Christ so that we could be better brothers and sisters to those around us.  Have a great weekend in Jesus name.

He Never Lies

January 20, 2011

Have you ever lied?  Now, be honest!  The fact is, I don’t know of anyone who has not stretched the truth at some point in life.  For example, how often do we hear the stories of important figures in our world getting caught in a lie.

When a person lies, their credibility is hurt in many circles.  Imagine if, your pastor lied or if your spouse lied.  Even worse, “what would we do if God lied?”  Brothers and sisters, “If God lies, we are no only in earthly trouble, we are in eternal trouble.”

By this point you are asking, “Why this line of thought?”  My answer is simply to point you to the book of Titus.  Here is what Paul wrote, “In hope of eternal life, which God, never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.”

Our hope of eternal life has been placed in God who is completely trustworthy.  You and I never have to doubt what God says.  The fact is, there is always fear in doubt.  Certainly my life would be filled with fear if I doubted anything God said.

As I read through the book of Titus I was reminded again and again of God’s total trustworthiness.  “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us…” 3:4-5a. I wonder, do you really trust God in everything He says?

If we trust God, several things come into place:  1) Your Salvation is secure, I John 1:9.  2) Your study of God’s word is deepening, because you trust everything in the book, II Peter 1:20-21. 3)  Your stand as a Christian is consistent because you never have to worry about changing your stand because God does not change.  4)  You can focus your life on lifting up Christ because there is not variation or shadow in Christ’s life.

This truth is so needed in a fallen world.  The fact is everyone fails and everyone has those moments when they blow it.  This is why we do not follow men, we follow God.  This is why we do not place our trust in men.  We place our trust in God.

Since this is true, how are we as flawed people to live?  We are to position ourselves in His truth.  We are to allow His truth to daily examine our lives through a study of His word.  We are to allow His truth to be our guide and our goal.  Here is what Paul charged Titus with, “And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” 3:14.

“Dear Lord, help us to be fruitful in your truth!”

Do You Want To Share?

January 19, 2011

If you grew up with siblings, you certainly remember your parents encouraging you to share?  Recently I was at the church on a Friday evening for a Basketball game.  It was half-time and a young man was walking across the court with some candy in his hand.  I asked this nice young man, “Would you like to share your skittles with me?”  Quickly the response came with actions and words.  He said, “No, very nicely,” as he pulled the candy close to him.

In life, there will always be a struggle with sharing things that we greatly enjoy.  And whats even worse is that we fail to understand how we could possibly be as happy with less.

Consider Paul’s words to Timothy in II Timothy 1:8, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”

As I read the book of II Timothy I became keenly aware that Paul was seeking to encourage Timothy to continue to faithfully deliver the gospel.  But in doing so Paul encourages Timothy to share!  What does he ask him to share?  The answer may surprise you, “Share in suffering for the gospel.”

The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will demand a life that causes us to not only share in the joy of salvation, the wonder of sanctification, but also in suffering for our faith.  Certainly we love the first part, we grow in the second part, but the last part we would rather not share.  But be assured it is a part of your Christian life.

Paul makes this even more clear in II Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a Godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The fact is, you are a light in a dark world, and a dark world does not want to come to the light.  A dark world wants to put the light out and because you are a light reflector, you are a target.

Certainly, you know this?  Consider your job and how daily it can be tough to live for God.  Consider your family, even though each may know Christ, daily the old nature tries to fight against the light.  You can find yourself hurting so much at home and you wonder what am I going through.

Brothers and sisters, do not lost heart in what you are going through.  Consider the following, “You are sharing in suffering.”  If a person is sharing in something, it suggests they are not alone. In reality you have a partner or maybe many partners.  Here is what Paul wrote, “Yet from them all the Lord rescued me,” 3:11.  “But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the Lion’s mouth,” 4:17.

When we share in suffering for the gospel, we are sharing life with Christ and we are promised victory in Christ.  So take heart, you are sharing suffering with the King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s.  Oh what an honor and oh what joy awaits as victory will come in Jesus name.

Perfect Patience

January 18, 2011

Is it really possibly to have perfect patience?  Let’s look at a few examples in our attempt to answer this question.  Consider the mother who has little ones at home.  They are so sweet, but suddenly the old nature kicks in and they become a handful.  If you watch closely enough, mom will sometimes lose her patience.  Consider the father who is trying to guide his teenage boys in the right direction.  If you watch closely enough, Dad will sometimes lose his patience.  Consider the pastor who loves the Lord, his flock, and the lost around him.  If you watch him closely enough, there will be moments when he looses his patience.

After our investigation, it is clear to see that no one is perfect and because of this no one has the ability, on their own, to have perfect patience.  Now let’s look away from ourselves and look to Christ.  The Psalmist writes, “But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever…” 102:11.  In a world where people fail we find a God who is faithful.

This morning as I read the book of I Timothy I was reminded of the Perfect Patience of God.  Here is Paul’s declaration, “But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life,” 1:16.

This verse just leaped off the page as I considered God’s love for me and God’s love for humanity.  I thought about how long Paul had persecuted the church and God had patience. I thought about how Paul stood against Christ and God had patience.  I thought about how Paul was not perfect even after coming to Christ and God still had patience.

Then I thought about my life of failure in so many ways, especially with patience.  But My God has been perfect in His patience in my life.  Question, “Has He evidenced perfect patience in your life as well?”  Certainly so!!!

As I tried to understand this perfect patience, I was reminded of what Paul wrote a few verses earlier, “And the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus,” 1:14. As our Perfect God looks down on His not so perfect people, He extends grace throughout our lives.

This grace does not give us a license to live a sinful life.  This grace extends salvation as well as extends the power to live a sanctified life.

This morning, I am greatly encouraged to do no less than three things:  1) Praise Him for His grace that is perfectly patient with me.  2) Purse a life of holiness that honors the grace given to me.  3) Extend grace to others in whom I need to have patience with.

I think that maybe these are things we all need to do today and everyday.  Have patience my brothers and sisters!!!!