Archive for December, 2018

Expectations (Matthew 1)

December 14, 2018

 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. Matthew 1:16

Every father (who cares about their children) has expectations for their children.  The types of expectations depends on whether the person is a Christ-follower or not.   Twenty-one hundred years ago, a man by the name of Joseph was filled with expectations.  Here is what the Bible records concerning his life:

  • Joseph was a just man.  This means he was a man who wanted to obey God’s directions in his life.
  • Joseph was a kind man.  This means he was unwilling to hurt Mary even though he believed she was wrong.
  • Joseph was a man who genuinely sought God’s will.  He was “considering” all that was taking place.  I can almost hear him crying out, “Show me Lord what to do.”
  • Joseph was a man who obeyed the Lord.

Brothers and sisters, the answer Joseph received from the Lord was beyond any expectation he would have ever had:

20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 

All I can say is, “wow.”

Brothers and sisters, what expectations do you have for this day?

Allow me to challenge you to want what Joseph wanted: “To obey the Lord.”

No more war (II Chronicles 15)

December 13, 2018

19 And there was no more war until the thirty-fifth year of the reign of Asa. II Chronicles 15:19

I cannot imagine living in a time where there would be no more wars.  Even as I write this there are wars and rummers of war all over our world.  In the days of the Kings of Israel there were constant wars in the world.  The nation of Israel had experience the same unrest in their ranks.  The nation was divided in two (the Northern Tribes of Israel and the Southern Tribes of Judah).

Our focal text covers the story of one of the Kings of Judah. His name is “Asa.”  To get the full picture of his story you will need to reach chapters 14 through 16.  Here is a bio on his life:

  • Asa was blessed because he did what was right in God’s eyes.
  • Asa experienced peace for 35 years as king because of God’s favor toward those who do what is right in His eyes.
  • Asa was a man of prayer, 14:11.
  • Asa turned away from the Lord, 16:7-9.

Brothers and sisters, did that last part of his bio affect you?  I was almost in shock as I read through chapter 16.  I asked myself this question:

How could a man of principle who was a man of prayer come to a place where he stopped praying and began to trust in the power of men?

The only answer is the true answer: Asa turned his eyes away from the Lord.  41 years earlier the prophet of God told Asa the following:

“Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: The Lord is with you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” 15:2

This is so important.  For 35 years, day in and day out Asa sought the Lord, but then he started to slow down in seeking the Lord and eventually he stopped seeking the Lord.

Question:  “Where are you and I today?”

Do we have wars in our homes and do we have wars in our hearts?  If so, are they of God’s making to grow us or are they of our making which is slowing our growth?

Seek the Lord and He will draw near to you!

The Hand (Ezra 8)

December 12, 2018

 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.”  Ezra 8:22

Growing up in Eastern Kentucky was an amazing blessing in my life.  I was sheltered by my parents from many forces that would have certainly captured my heart.  As a child I sometimes took for granted the amazing love of my mother.  Her hands cooked, cleaned, and showed compassion to me every day. There were many days when I took for granted the strong hands of my father.  Daily he protected, he provided, and he pointed me to strong moral values.

These truths came rushing into my mind once again as I read Ezra eight.  The truth is, God’s good hands have always been given to me by the good hands of His servants. I can say today, “I am thankful for His hands through my parents.”

In Ezra eight the scribe Ezra was concerned for the hand of God to be honored among the nations. He had been given the charge from the king to lead a second group of exiles to return home to Israel.  To show his kindness, the king gives the group much treasure to take back.

It must have been on the mind of the group that there would be a greater risk of robbery because of the wealth they carried.  So one probably asked, “Ezra, why not ask  the king for an escort?”

This makes complete sense to me.  But to Ezra this would have been wrong because he had told the king of God’s hand of blessing on those who follow God.  Here is the big deal:

I Trust God and I want the king to see God in His glory working in my life!!!

Brothers and sisters, this is why God places His good hand on us today.  I want to challenge all who read this to seek to live in a way that shows the world the good hand of the Lord in your life.  His hands are all over your life since before your beginning.  Slow down and look for them today.  When you find them, share the news with the world.

Riding through the desert (Psalm 68)

December 11, 2018

Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
    lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the Lord;
    exult before him! Psalm 68:4

Have you ever ridden through a desert? The closest I have ever come to this was when I first traveled to Malawi in 2013.  I can still vividly remember the ride into the Elephant Village.  The land was extremely dry and cracking open.  There was nothing but heat, dirt, and broken people.  But as we approached the village the people began to sing and call out to us to come.  It was as if there was something inside of them that overcame the desert.

This morning I believe I understand why those brothers and sisters were rejoicing.  My brothers and sisters were rejoicing in what God was doing in them despite the desert they were in.

In Psalm 68 I am so encouraged in knowing it is God who bears us up (Vs: 19) in the desert moments of life.  Here is what God does for us:

  • He comes to our desert places to meet us at the point of our need, Vs: 4-6.

He comes to the orphan and widow.  He comes to our places of imprisonment.  He abides in our homes.

  • He leads us through desert places securing our safety, Vs: 7-10.

Along the journey, He meets every need.

  • He leads us into battle as our warrior leader, Vs: 11-14

 

  • He leads us into His heavenly dwelling, Vs: 15-18.

Brothers and sisters, this is why the people in Malawi had a song in their hearts!  This is why we can have a song in our hearts.

What can we say to our God?

Blessed be the Lord,
    who daily bears us up;
    God is our salvation. 

Take time this day to praise Him:

32 O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
    sing praises to the Lord, Selah
33 to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
    behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
34 Ascribe power to God,
    whose majesty is over Israel,
    and whose power is in the skies.
35 Awesome is God from his[h] sanctuary;
    the God of Israel—he is the one who gives power and strength to his people.
Blessed be God!

I leave you with two thoughts:

  1. God will meet you in your desert place if you will call Him.
  2. God will send you to reach others in their desert place if you ask Him to send you, Acts 8:26-40.

A different viewpoint (Psalm 6)

December 10, 2018

The Lord has heard my plea;
    the Lord accepts my prayer. Psalm 6:9

As I opened my Bible to Psalm 6, I was mindful of God’s graciousness in my life. I began to think about all the times the Lord has heard my pleas and all the times the Lord has answered my prayers (Vs: 9).  God is forever faithful.

The Psalmist knows this to be true.  Take a look at the last verse of chapter five:

For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
    you cover him with favor as with a shield.

David knows this, but in his present circumstance he seems to now have a different viewpoint.  He cries out to God, “I am hurting, please do not rebuke me in anger nor discipline me in wrath.”

In this chapter there are three applications for us:

  1. David’s hurt reveals his humanity.  There are moments when we struggle with the correct view-points in life.
  2. David’s humanity reveals his heart.
    1. David knows where his help comes from.
    2. David knows God is in complete control of his life, Vs: 3.
    3. David knows God loves him, Vs: 4.
    4. David knows only the living can praise the Lord, Vs: 5.
  3. David’s honesty reveals our need for honesty.

David admits to God, I am weary.  David admits to God, I am weak.  David cries out to God, I am waiting on you.

  • In honesty speak to the God who calls you to come to Him, Matt. 11:28-20.
  • In honesty admit to God your weakness in the battles you face, I Peter 5:5-7.
  • In honesty wait on the Lord, He will come through in your life, Isaiah 40:27-30; Galatians 6:9.

Brothers and sisters, I believe the Lord never intends for His people to be silent in their tough moments.  I believe half the battle is being honest with God.

Hear are God’s Words to us on this Monday:

Psalm 55:22 English Standard Version (ESV)

22 Cast your burden on the Lord,
    and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
    the righteous to be moved.

Your old ways (John 21)

December 7, 2018

 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. John 21:3

Brothers and sisters, “I need time with Jesus!”  Question: Is this how you feel today?

As Peter considered the troubles in his heart and mind, his old  ways spoke up.  His old ways whispered, “let’s go fishing.”  In the moment it seemed like the thing to do because fishing was what Peter was good at before he met Jesus.  It was his old way.  Question, do you have any old ways?  Were there things you relied on to get you through life before you met Jesus?  Or maybe, you haven’t met Jesus and you are clueless about a new way of life.

Peter is a Christ-follower who is living with the sorrow of his temporary failure in following Jesus.  On this day recorded in John 21, Peter needed two things:

  1. He needed to be restored in his walk with Jesus.  This happens in 21:15-17.
  2. He needed to be reminded of God’s call on his life.  Jesus says, “You follow me.”

Brothers and sisters I need Jesus fellowship every day of my life.  I have an enemy who is always looking for a crack in my faith.  Satan is always wanting to devour my life and by the way Satan is always wanting to devour your life.

In this glorious scene, Jesus comes to where Peter is and Jesus does what only Jesus can do.  He restores Peter.  But even in the restoring Peter still has some old ways.  He turns and asks, What about John.

Peter would daily need to follow Jesus so that the pull of the old ways would not take him down.

On this Friday (or whenever you are reading this) I ask you, what are you feeling tempted to do?  Is it the old way or the new way.  Be assured if it is the old way, it is not of God.  Embrace a better way, Only follow Jesus!!!

Ignoring the label (Proverbs 15)

December 6, 2018

32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
    but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor. Proverbs 15:32-33

As he stood there, it seemed as if his spirit was crushed (Vs: 13).  He had been successful so many other times, but on this day, he stood there with tears swelling up in his eyes.  He could not figure out what had happened.  But his son knew what had happened. As he listened to his dads reasons, he knew it was time to tell him.

What am I writing about? I am writing about a senior adult father who has taken his medicine twice in the morning.  If his son had not come over the father’s house, he would have taken it a third time.  The third time would have killed him.

In this case, the wise older man was faced with a decision, would he ask for help or would he listen to his flesh that said, I know what I am doing.

Each of you who read this blog, must admit you truly have so many decisions to make in a days time.  As you are considering your choices, the enemy is doing his best to put his wicked choices in your mind and in your path.  As you consider your choices, even your flesh will betray you.

I am so glad to write that the wise older man looked at his son and asked, would you please help me with my medicine each week?

If we would only heed such wisdom.  Never let a crushed spirit direct your decisions.  Never allow pride to keep you from listening.  Never allow your stress to be your driver.

The Bible is clear, “submit to God!!!”

If Peter would have only listened. Tomorrow will tell the story of whether you and I listened this day.

The truest test (John 1)

December 5, 2018

 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”  John 1:26-27

As I sat there listening to this brother proclaim the Word of God I was in awe of his ability to preach. In another meeting I sat there listening to another brother proclaiming the Word of God and I was in awe of the God He proclaimed.

What was the difference between these two ministers?  It could have been me or maybe it was that one truly pointed his audience to his God.

When we read about the ministry of John the Baptist it is so clear that he serves an amazing God.  His entire ministry was filled with one message: “Behold the lamb of God.” 

As I sit here at my computer writing this blog I wonder if I preach this way?  I wonder if I live this way?  How does one know if they are lifting up Jesus?

  1. You are leading people to Him.
  2. You are more concerned about others walk with Him than with your own.
  3. You are happy as long as those you love are on mission for Him.

We see this not only in John’s ministry, but we see it in Andrews life.  As soon as he meets Jesus, he immediately tells his brother about Jesus.  When you see Andrew he is seeking to bring others to Jesus.

Father, lead all who read this to point people to Jesus!!!

 

Dude, what happened? (Acts 13)

December 4, 2018

13 Now Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia. And John left them and returned to Jerusalem,  Acts 13:13

In Acts 13 we have both the story of Paul and Barnabas high moments and their low moments in ministry.  I am so thankful God records both so that you and I would not have the wrong impression of true ministry.

Often we read stories of the successes of people without considering their struggles.

I believe the following with all my heart: “Success comes only with struggle.”  Here is something else I believe with all my heart: “Success comes only with sacrifice.”

In Acts 13 we read of sacrifice:

  • The church in Antoich sacrificed their best preachers for the sake of the gospel.
  • Paul and Barnabas sacrificed in being persecuted from place to place for the sake of the gospel.
  • Jesus sacrificed in going to the cross for the sake of the gospel.

38 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed[c] from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.

Brothers and sisters, I am glad others were willing to sacrifice for my success!!!

In Acts 13 we read a side-story of a young man, John Mark (Vs: 15,13) who wanted to be successful, but the sacrifice was too much in his early days of faith.  He goes home without success.  However in years to come, he would grow in his faith and he would become one who willingly sacrificed for His faith.

Brothers and sisters, what you are up against today?  What is it that you are wanting to run from?  The truth is, success only comes through sacrifice.  I find God’s Word to be the encouragement I need this day.  I pray it will be yours as well:

I Corinthians 15:58

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Moments that hurt (John 18)

December 3, 2018

 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. John 18:27

The man stood at the front of the church waiting for his soon to be wife to come down the aisle, he said to God, “I want to get it right this time.”  This man was thinking about his first marriage which turned out to be a total nightmare.  By his own admission the man said, “it was totally his own fault.”

But this time around the man has surrendered his life to Jesus!

Brothers and sisters, do you have moments in your past that hurt? I know, in my life, there are hurtful moments I can talk about and some I cannot  talk about.  I really believe it must have been this way for Peter after the events in John 18.

I have written about this moment so many times in the past.  Each time I have always felt I had never gotten to the core of the matter. I wrote in the book Apprentice, “Peter is beyond his limits.  He needed to be alert to the devil’s purpose and he needed to cry out to God for mercy and power,” cited from Pg. 233.  But he did not!

Here is the core brothers and sisters: When you and I walk in the flesh we are certain to engage in many moments that will hurt.

Three questions arise from my studies this morning:

  1. How do I get beyond such moments?

God’s answer is clear, Lk 22:31-32 “Turn back to God.”  We do this through repentance, I John 1:9.  Yes, you can move beyond your failures with a genuine prayer of repentance.

2. How do I stay away from such moments?

Again, God’s answer is clear:  Submit to God’s leadership, James 4:6-7.  Stand behind God, John 17:12 “He guards us from the enemy.”  Walk in the Spirit daily, Galatians 5:13-16.

3.  How can I warn others to stay away from such moments?  I Peter 5:5-9.

In transparent humility be honest about your past.  Speak the truth in love with those who are headed to your old moments. Do not give up.  Jesus told Peter what was to come.  Peter did not listen, but later he did and his life was forever useful to God.

Brothers and sisters, what is our prayer today?  Mine is as was the man at the altar, “Lord, I want to get this day right.”