Archive for December, 2014

Finishing Well (John 21; Malachi 4)

December 31, 2014

“Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do no wish,”  John 21:18

Wow, where did the year go?  Yes, today is the last day of 2014!  Personally it has been a year of great change and challenge.

The change came as God made clear to our family that we were to complete our assignment in Kentucky with the wonderful people at Kings Baptist Church and we were to begin the next phase of our lives with our new family at FBC of Jackson Georgia.

The challenge came as we left our oldest son as well as so many others we loved in Ky.  9 months later we still miss Keith every day as well as our church family.  But at the same time we are being loved in amazing ways where we are.  The greatest challenge is in building a team that will touch the world for the next 25 years.

This morning I thought about the great challenge before Peter as He was restored to service in the Lord’s work (21:15-17).

Think it through:

I.  God was calling him to feed, tend, and guide the early church.

Peter was faithful to his assignment.  Certainly he was not perfect but he passionately (II Peter 1:12-14) pursued God’s call on his life.

II.  God would call him to finish well.

The verse above is Jesus prophecy of how Peter would die.  Peter would be led to a cross and there he would give his life in the service of the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, it is easy to look back over the year and even the years gone by.  We can analysis the good of faithfulness and the bad of failure.  Through it all God has been good.  One of the things I celebrate is the coming to the completion of reading the Bible together in 2013-2014!!!

But I also look ahead and I wonder, “What does God have for us in 2015?”

Could it be persecution as with many of our brothers and sisters around the world?  Could it be a ministry move?  Could it be the home going of a loved one?  Could it be a great personal call to serve the Lord in a unique way?

Whatever it is, “May we be willing to finish well for His glory!”

My response:

Thank you Father for allowing me to serve you in your Kingdom plan in 2014!!!  Please guide me to serve you more faithfully in your Kingdom plan for 2015!!!

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Is It Enough? John 20; Malachi 3)

December 30, 2014

“Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me?  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  John 20:29

Question:  “How much evidence does one have to have to believe in something or in someone?”  Answer, “It depends on the receptivity of the person who is gathering the evidence.”  Example, “If a person has already made up their mind before they gather the evidence, it is very unlikely that they will come to a different conclusion.”

Consider John 20 where the evidence is being gathered for the proof of Jesus resurrection:

I.  John the Apostle believes after gathering the information at the empty tomb, Vs: 8

II.  Mary Magdalene believes after gathering the information in the garden, when she see’s the resurrected Jesus, Vs: 16-17

III.  The disciples (minus Thomas, who was not there) believe after gather the information given by the resurrected Jesus in the upper room, Vs: 19-23

IV.  The doubting disciple (Thomas) believes after gathering the information of the nail scars in Jesus body, Vs: 24-29

Question:  “Is this enough for you to believe?”

Think it through:

The resurrection is the one distinction between Christianity and all other religions of the world. For me, it is enough evidence.  I chose to believe!!!

Because of this choice I have also chosen to believe and obey His command to go and proclaim this message to the world.  I know that all who believe are accepted by God!!!

Your response:

Is it enough for you?  The power of the resurrection has brought me to the place where I believe what John wrote, “That by believing you may have life in his name.”  

As we come to the end of 2014, it is my prayer that all would believe!!!  However, I know they cannot believe unless they hear (Rom 10:14-17).  I also know they cannot see unless Jesus opens their eyes (Isaiah 61:1-2).  I can make the first happen and I can by faith believe the second will happen!!!

Whose fault is it? (Malachi 2; John 19)

December 29, 2014

But you have turned aside from the way.  You have caused many to stumble by your instruction.  You have corrupted the covenant of Levi, says the Lord of hosts.”  Malachi 2:9

At the end of the year, there will be much consideration of the successes and failures in 2014.  The New Years resolutions will be heart-felt by many, but often the resolutions fall short.

Consider with me the state of our nation and the nations of the world.  It is clear, there are more failures that we can write about.  The question that comes to mind is this, “Whose fault is it?”  Paul Harvey years ago said, “There is enough blame to go around.”  I believe this is exactly what Malachi is indicating in chapter 2.

Think it through:

In chapter 2 we clearly see the sins of both the priests and the people.  Both groups share blame for the destruction that was upon them.  However, the greater blame is reserved for the priest’s:

1.  They ceased following the Lord, Vs: 8A

They turned from the way.  Ours is a society that has reduced the call to ministry into simply a job that has little to do with God’s call.  Leaders were living corrupt lives, taking advantage of others, living without regard to holiness, and robbing God of what they owed him.

2.  They caused others to falter before the Lord, Vs: 8b

They were giving forth false teaching which was gratifying the false living of the people, Vs: 9-16.  The people were living without restraint, conviction, and direction.  Brothers and sisters, only God’s Word can show us the correct way to live, II Timothy 3:16-17.

What is to be our response?

1.  We must repent of listening and embracing false teachers and false teaching.

2.  We must resolve to pray for and hold accountable all those who say, “I teach the Word of God.”

This very day, I prayed the following, “Father, silence the voice of false teachers and elevate the voice of true teachers.  Increase their borders of influence in the gospel.”

Take time to read Paul’s challenge to Timothy in II Timothy 4:1-5

The hope of the world is found in true teaching of the gospel as Jesus gave us the commission to do so, Matthew 28:18-20!!!

3.  We must support all who proclaim the gospel with clarity and conviction.

“Father, raise up more and more preachers of the gospel.”

The One who stands beside me (Zechariah 13; John 16)

December 26, 2014

“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me, declares the Lord of hosts.”  Zechariah 13:7

The clutter of December 26 is often overwhelming in many parts of our nation.  Imagine being a sanitation worker who must arise early to face a route where the garbage of the holiday is now awaiting.  This morning I prayed for all who face the clutter of life. This clutter could lead to an oversight of the one who came!

It was a day of clutter for Zechariah.  The people (prophets) were giving forth wrong prophecies, but soon they would be destroyed.  However a true prophet (A true shepherd was on the way).  Take time to read chapter 13, it is only 9 verses, but they are amazing verses.

Think it through:

I.  The true shepherd was coming, Vs: 7

This one is God (He stands beside God).  He is of the same essence as God (Phil. 2:6-9).  He is the Only Begotten of God (John 3:16).  This is so important for us to understand.  Only one who was of the same essence could stand in the Father’s presence.  He is the only one whose sacrifice would be accepted by the Father.  He became man (He came and stood beside us).  He was going to be struck as the shepherd (Matt. 26:31; Mk. 14:23).  As of us He could represent us before God.

II.  The true Christian would be identified, Vs: 8-9

Those who truly belong to God would face suffering as they were being purified.  Those who truly belong to God will be made perfect through the work of the Shepherd.

Brothers and sisters, “We must come to the place where we embrace all that God says of God the Son.  He is God and He is man!!!

Our response:

This is why we can praise the Lord for the truth of the One who stands beside us.  Do not allow the clutter of religion to rob you of this truth.  Johnny Hunt said the following, “There are only two religions in the world.  One is Christianity, “Which stressed a divine work of God for our salvation.”  The other is, “A works based religion that says, “I must do something.””

I praise God for the God who stands beside me!!!

A Christmas connection (John 15; Zechariah 12:1-13:1)

December 25, 2014

“I am the vine and you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

On this glorious day we celebrate the first advent of Jesus.  For most in the world this will be a day like other days.  Yes, it is different here in America and in most European countries as people will gather for some type of celebration.  However, for many in the world, this day is just another day of trying to survive another day.

This morning I arose to realize the story of Christmas leads us to a Christmas connection.

Think it through:

Jesus, in John 15, is using an organic illustration to illustrate the life that a Christian has in their connection to Christ.  Just as the tree cannot live apart from the root (vine) neither can anyone have spiritual life apart from Christ.

In the Old Testament, Israel was often called, “The vine of the Lord.”  It was her job to bear fruit before the world (Psalm 80:8-16).  But she did not do this. However, Jesus did because he was and is the Vine.

Here is the connection:

I.  Our salvation is in Christ, Vs: 5

II. Our sanctification is in Christ, Vs: 7-17

A.  Because of our connection, we can be effective in prayer because we are praying in the will of God.

B.  Because of our connection, we can live with joyous purpose.  Our connection to Christ brings joy, love, and fellowship.

C.  Because of our connection, we offer exuberant praise to the God who chose us for His own.

III.  Our struggles in Christ, Vs: 18-27

Because we are followers of Christ we will be hated by the world.  But we also will experience the joy of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Many of you who read this blog are facing struggles.  Take heart this Christmas day, “You are connected to Christ.”  This means you are highly favored.  He is the gift that brings salvation and He is the gift that will keep giving all the way to the moment you stand before Him justified because of your connection.

Our response:

Lift up your voice and praise God in your native language.  Lift up your hands and praise God for the connection you have. Look up because your help draws near.  Reach out because you are God’s connection to the world.

Merry Christmas in Jesus name!!!

A Christmas wish (John 14; Zechariah 11)

December 24, 2014

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do, and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”  John 14:12

This morning I find myself, one day before Christmas, praising God for His work on the cross.  Because of His work on the cross I can ask for amazing blessings for my brothers and sisters around the world.  You ask, “what blessings are you speaking about?”

Think it through:

In John 14 we see an intense hour in the lives of the Disciples.  The disciples are physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. Jesus speaks amazing truth that has brought great comfort and peace to the church for over 2000 years.  Consider these truths:

1.  There is a future place awaiting the people of God in heaven simply because of what Jesus was about to accomplish on the cross, Vs: 1-6

2.  There is a future power arriving from God because of what Jesus was about to accomplish on the cross, Vs: 12-26

When the Holy Spirit came the church could now do greater things:

a.  The gospel would spread.  “The borders of the church would increase because of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.”

b.  The believers live would be filled with strength.  There would be an effective prayer life, obedience to the commandments of God, and life with the Holy Spirit.

3.  There is a future peace arriving from God because of what Jesus was about to accomplish on the cross, Vs: 25-31

In Christ there would be a peace that would be evident because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Our response:

This very day I have spent time making the following Christmas wishes:

1.  Lord, grant the persecuted church an awareness that this world is not their home.  There is awaiting an eternal home in heaven.

2.  Lord, grant the persecuted church great success in increasing the borders of the gospel influence.

3.  Lord, grant your peace in the midst of the tough days in the persecuted church.

Allow me to challenge you to spend a moment in your Christmas eve praying the same prayers.

The question of betrayal (John 13; Zechariah 10)

December 23, 2014

“So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, ‘Lord who is it?'” John 13:26

In just a few days, thousands of children will be almost consumed with the coming of the one in the red suit.  Chuck Swindoll recently commented on his radio program, “Don’t spend so much time fighting someone who is fictitious.”  So, I am going to take his advice.

This morning I am occupying myself with the question in John 13, “Who will be the one who betray’s Jesus?”

Think it through:

John 13 gives us details of the night of Jesus betrayal.  In the first 20 verses Jesus washes the disciples feet.  We gain so much truth from this humbling moment:

1.  Jesus knows he will go through this night, Vs: 3

2.  Judas was about to give himself over to Satan, Vs: 4,26

3. The disciples would learn how to humbly serve one another, Vs: 1-15

4.  All the disciples would be shocked by the reality of the betrayal.

Two other truths comes from the rest of the chapter:

5.  Blessings do not keep us from betrayal, Vs: 27-30.

When Jesus dips the morsel of bread in the cup it was, in that culture, a high honor to receive such a piece of bread. The disciples though Judas was off to a great assignment, when he was off to betrayal.

6.  The cross teaches us how to love one another, Vs: 31-34

As Jesus loved us so we are to love other.

Our response:

In my life, God has dipped in the cup of blessing so many times.  But I have often failed to thank him and I have often failed to live this same way in blessing others.  In this I am betraying my disciple status (Vs: 35, “By this all will know that we are disciples by our love.’

My prayer this day is to simply become a person whose life shows forth my love for God. In this I will not betray him!!!

What do you love the most? (John 12; Zechariah 9)

December 22, 2014

“For they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God,” John 12:43

“What do you really want for Christmas?”  This question came through really clear to my youngest son.  John and I were walking from the car toward the house where we are staying.  He had asked me, “Dad, what do you want me to get you for Christmas?”  I did what I often tell him not to do, I responded to a question with a question.

If you are a Christ follower I ask, “What do you really want for Christmas?”  Be careful here, “Your answer will reveal what you love the most.”

Consider John 12 before you answer:

I.  Mary teaches us about the sacrificial love of the Messiah,Vs: 1-3

Here giving her sacrifice reminds us of Jesus body that would be prepared with burial with the same type of perfumes that she was giving now.  Mary loved Jesus above all.

II.  Judas teaches us about selfish love of many, Vs: 4-6

Judas did not care for the poor. This was only a cover-up of his desire to use the money for himself.

III.  The crowds teach us about the narcissistic lives of most, Vs; 10-19

These people were seeking Jesus because he did signs and they were hoping he would do something for them.

Think it through:

Who do you identify with the most in the above illustrations?  I wish I identified the most with Mary but there are moments when I truly more identify with the crowds.  As I look at my prayer journal I am convicted that I must grow in my love for Christ.

Our response:

In these days leading up to Christmas you and I must discover what we love the most.  I truly desire for God to be glorified this Christmas season.  I hope you and I can someday stand before God with many others who have seen the glory of God in our lives.

The sight of faith (John 9; Zechariah 6)

December 19, 2014

“Jesus said, for judgment I came into the world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” John 9:39

As Jesus and his disciples chose to not attend the rolling stones concert (John 8:59 “so they picked up stones to throw at him”). We see them in John 9 exiting the temple.  The disciples immediately spot a man sitting who is blind.  Without a doubt the man is begging.  The disciples ask a question, “Whose fault is it for this man’s blindness?”  In Jesus response we begin to understand the sight of faith.

Key point:  “The light of the world touches the darkness of the world.”

Think it through:

I.  This man’s blindness would become an opportunity for the glory of the Lord.

This man would be healed and because of this healing, his neighbors would consider the glory of the Lord.

II. This man’s blindness would become an opportunity for the grace of the Lord.

This man’s spiritual darkness would become light as Jesus brings him to the light.  We see the man’s progression of spiritual sight.  He says: “Jesus is a man, Jesus is a prophet, Jesus is come from God, and Jesus is God.”  Only the Lord of heaven could awaken him to this very truth.

Our response:

Sadly enough those who should have known who he was simply remained in the darkness.  Question, “In the place where you live, will people remain in the darkness in this Christmas season?”  Brothers and sisters, “I believe the darkness cannot overcome the light.”

This Christmas season can be a wonderful opportunity for you and I to share with others about the miracle of sight coming to our lives.  Oh that we would have the faith and zeal of the former blind man!!!

What Abraham saw (John 8; Zechariah 5)

December 18, 2014

“Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day.  He saw it and was glad.”  John 8:56

In one’s life time he or she will see many things.  Personally I have seen so many wonderful sites ranging from the wonderful mountain peaks from my home state of Kentucky to the wonderful plush valley of Megiddo in Israel.  In my lifetime I have also seen many sights which were not wonderful.  Sights ranging from the impoverished people lying on a street corner in a Romanian city to the aids victimized children in Malawi Africa.

Question, “How much effect does the sights around us really have?”

Think it through:

In John chapter 8 we see a long debate between Jesus and those who thought they had perfect sight.  These so-called sighted religious leaders tried to trap Jesus by placing a circumstance before him that would trip him up (John 8:1-11).  However, the circumstance tripped them up because they were the ones who were also in sin.

As you work your way through the chapter two revealing points come to the forefront:

I.  These people did not accept the fact, “We are sinners,”

Jesus makes it clear that they were both slaves to sin and sons of Satan, Vs: 31-48.

II.  These people did not accept the fact, “Jesus is the Savior.”

However Abraham knew that he was the Savior and Abraham knew that he needed a Savior.

How is it that Abraham who lived 4000 years before the coming of Christ could see what the people who literally saw Jesus could not see?  Answer, “Abraham was a man of faith.”

Our response:

This day I am reminded that all I see points me to two facts:  1.  This world needs a Savior  2.  Jesus is that Savior.

Abraham believed that after him would come one who was before him, Jesus.  Abraham knew that his part was to live by faith in seeing the promised one coming through the heritage that his son would be a part of.  But Abraham did not trust in his family tree.  He trusted in Jesus for his salvation.

Brothers and sisters, “We surely can see that this world is a terrible place.”  Surely we can see that there is only one light in the darkness.  This light is Jesus Christ.  Let us take the message of the light to every place we see!!!