Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You’ve Just Won Free Tickets!

Today I heard a radio contest and it brought back memories of the one and only time I ever won anything from a radio show. The gift was nice, but I had to head on over to Memphis to pick up free coupon. As I thought about this FREE ticket contest, it reminded me that even though something wonderful and exciting can be free, there is always a price to pay to obtain it. But the FREE gift usually outweighs the duty spent to obtain it. Here’s a similar add that I heard today.

* - Hey, thank you for calling FM 92 where we play 80’s over and over and over, who’s this?

+ - Uh, this is Jonathan.
* - Hey Jonathan, thanks for calling in to the show.
* - Of course the show is sponsored by your local Quik-Shop, where we get you out the door, just as quickly as you came in.
* - Okay Jonathan there’s an NBA game tomorrow night at the local arena and you can win FREE tickets if you can answer the question. Did you hear the quik-clip that we just played?
+ - Uh, yea.
* - Okay, what was the number one hit on December 30th, 1987? (drum roll please)
+ - Uh…. Umm…. I think it was Faith by George Michael..?
* - You’re exactly right! That’s a great memory you have there Jonathan! Way to go!
* - Hang on the line there with me Jonathan, and I’ll hook you up with those FREE tickets.
* - Everyone be sure to have a good and safe and happy New Year out there this week, and remember the station that plays 80’s over and over and over – FM 92.
* - Okay, you still here with me Jonathan?
+ - Uh, yea.
* - Okay Jonathan, do you know where our radio studio is here in town?
+ - Uh, well, I live in the town right next to you, but yea, I know where it is.
* - Well, just head on over to our studios today, and pick up these FREE tickets for the game tomorrow night.
+ - Uh, you can’t mail them to me?
* - Well, they wouldn’t get to your house in time and the game’s tomorrow night.
+ - Uh, you mean I need to come way over to your town to pick up the tickets today, and come back way over to your town again tomorrow for the game?
* - Yes – if you’d like these FREE tickets.
+ - These tickets don’t sound very free to me.
* - We’ll they’re FREE, and they will be here waiting for you if you’d like to come and get them….

What about you, do these tickets sound like a good deal to you or not. It may depend on what the tickets are for, or what the event is whether it’s a good deal for you. For me personally, a basketball game would not really be something I’d be willing to put forth an effort to take advantage of. But everyone has something that interests them so that they’d be willing to take advantage of this “FREE” offer.

God offers us this very same deal, but the event is going to be the grandest event ever known to mankind or angelic beings alike – and that’s heaven. God offers us all “FREE” tickets to heaven. But just like the example above, there is an action required on our part.

Just as God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a staff and raise it up for the people who had been bitten to come and look at – and be made well again. Numbers 21:8-9. Many of the people who grumbled and complained against God were bitten by poisonous snakes and died. But God made a way for the people to be saved. The people were told if after they were bitten, if they would look at this snake up high on a pole, they would be made well. So, when the people were bitten those who believed looked to the pole and were saved.

Jesus himself retells this same story and compares what he would shortly be going through to be the saving means or mechanism that would save us. Jesus said:

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, the Son of Man must be lifted up also. Then everyone who believes in him can live with God forever. "God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life. "God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world. He sent his Son to save the world through him. Anyone who believes in him is not judged. But anyone who does not believe is judged already. He has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. John 3:14-18

Free tickets to heaven anybody? Just come to Jesus. Let Jesus save you. Don’t let this great sacrifice go unused. Take advantage of it. He is waiting. He has a place prepared for us, if we will only wake up, and get up out of the hog pen and realize how filthy we are, and how much better our situation would be in “our father’s house” He stands up on the porch – just like the Prodigal’s father – watching and waiting for us to return to him. We must be willing to take the step, to even go out of our way if need be to come to him. We must believe. Faith is an active description which requires us to make an effort. Just like me having to drive over to the next town just to pick up some FREE tickets. If it’s heaven we’re talking about here, then its well worth the drive.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Giving My Best

I've rewritten or paraphrased a couple of passages from the bible, to help me study and understand these pasages a little clearer. God is so good in that he provided us with His holy scriptures, so that we might come to learn from Him.

GOD - Israel, I have loved you.
Israel - Ha! How have you loved us?
GOD - Was Esau not the rightful son who should have been blessed?
GOD - Wasn’t Jacob the younger chosen?
GOD - I cursed Esau because he dishonored his father.
GOD - I have torn down Easu’s mountains and left his dwelling desolate.
GOD - They may try and rebuild, but I will again destroy it all.
GOD - They shall forever be cursed.
GOD - You will see and know that God, who rules over all judges even them.
GOD - A son honors his father.
GOD - If I am a father, where is the honor I should have?
GOD - A servant honors his master.
GOD - If I am a master, where is the respect you should give me?"
GOD - You priests look down on me.
Israel - How have we looked down on you?
GOD - You put unclean food upon my altar.
Israel - How have we made your altar unclean?
Israel - How have we defiled you?
GOD - You do it by looking down on my altar.
GOD - By despising my altar you despise me.
GOD - Is it not wrong to sacrifice blind, sick, or defiled animals to me?
GOD - How would your governor enjoy those gifts?
GOD - Do you fear your governor more than you fear me?
GOD - Do you honor your rulers more than you honor me?
GOD - Now you dare to ask me to show you my favor and to bless you?
GOD - Don’t you know how you dishonor me?
GOD - As long as you give me these types of offerings, how can I bless you?
GOD - You might as well close up the temple and stop pretending to honor me.
GOD - I am not pleased with you, and I will not accept any of these offerings you bring.
GOD - My name will be great throughout the world!
GOD - The whole world will worship me from the east to the west.
GOD - In every place they will burn beautiful incense to me.
GOD - They will bring pure offerings to me because my name will be great in the world.
GOD - But you, you treat me and my name as if it is a common name.
GOD - You treat my altar as a common altar, worth less than your rulers.
GOD - You look down on the offerings you bring and give me the leftovers.
GOD - You grumble as if serving me is a burden.
GOD - You wish you could do the things that make you happy, instead of thinking of me.
GOD - You cheat me by promising the best, and delivering the second best.
GOD - Because you cheat me, you are under my curse.
GOD - Remember Esau.
GOD - Even the nations around you respect and know me as the great king.
GOD - So why can’t you?

Malachi 1

As Jesus looked up, He saw rich people putting in their gifts into the temple offering boxes. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins.
JESUS - What I’m about to tell you is true.
JESUS - That poor widow has put in more than all the others.
JESUS - All of those other people put in a lot, because they are rich.
JESUS - But even though this lady is very poor, she has put in everything she had.
JESUS - She has nothing else to live on.

Luke 1:1-4

What if I sing with the voice of an angel?
Without love, my voice and my songs are worthless.
I am really only a loud, noisy clanging symbol in God’s eyes.
What if God has blessed me with the gift of prophecy?
What if I memorized the Bible, inside and out.
What if I think I know the deep mysteries of God.
What if I have more faith than anyone, so that I can do anything?
If I don’t have love, then all of these gifts don’t matter.
Without love, I am really no one at all.
What if I give everything I have to the poor?
What if I give my own body to be sacrificed in place of someone else?
If I do not have love, these generous actions will not benefit me.
If I do not do these actions out of love, care, and concern, then I might as well not do them. It would be the same as I did nothing at all, than to do these without love. What good is it?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Winter Solstice – A New Beginning

I’ve been cooped up inside at night for several nights over the past few weeks as the weather has been cloudy, rainy and cold. Typically, I like to spend several minutes outside at night on my back porch – just staring up at the stars and the moon. I obviously lead a rather simple life, but I have to say that spending some time alone on the back porch in the cold night air, looking up at the sky is one of my favorite things to do. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to some clear nights again as soon as this cloudy air mass can leave our area.

Have you noticed the dark days recently? I notice it especially on the drive home from work. During the summer months, when it would stay light up until after 8:00 pm, it now starts to get dark at around 5:00 pm. Winter Solstice is the shortest day, or the longest night of the year, and is marked as the beginning of winter for us in the U.S. But it is also the reversal of the gradually lengthening nights and shortening days. In other words, after December 21st, the days will start to lengthen giving us more sunlight during the daytime hours. This progresses until the summer solstice which happens around June 21st.

I am no scientist or history buff and cannot fully explain in further detail all the nuances of the solstice or solar system in general. But I am made to pause and consider that as we near the end of 2008, we end the year in a reversal of day light and night time. And speaking in terms of metaphors, the earth itself has gone through a transition of birth, growth, and prosperity in the spring and summer months to a transition of harvest, fading, falling, and dieing in the fall and winter months. Winter officially begins on Sunday, 21st. So we still have a few more months of winter before spring arrives.

So as we near the end of this year, and approach the changing of another season, I’d like to focus my life, and challenge myself more to grow closer and stronger IN CHRIST. Just as each day after the winter solstice becomes longer and longer – ever so gradually, just as the moon each night grows larger and larger after a new moon – ever so slowly, I want to commit myself to grow stronger and stronger in Christ. I know and understand that it will take time. Just as my children long for the first days of summer, they must learn patience through waiting and take one day at a time – making the most of the time that is afforded.

One big area in which I need focus on is the fact that I must fear God.
Job 28:28, Psalms 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 15:33

I should not put my trust in myself, any other man, or even in the God’s beautiful creation. Deuteronomy 4:7, Deuteronomy 4:8, Deuteronomy 4:9, Deuteronomy 4:19, Deuteronomy 4:39, Deuteronomy 4:40

Father God - Lord you are awesome. I know that you love me, but I do not understand why. I am a sinner and I choose often to please myself rather than to obey you. I thank you for your love, mercy and grace. I pray Lord that you will bless me with that same spirit that you have, that I may love others as you do. I read the story of Jonah tonight Lord, and I realize that I too judge others in spite of myself – just as Jonah did. Forgive me when I feel that others do not deserve your love, and I somehow do. Forgive me when I act like the older brother of the prodigal and do not celebrate when others return to you and find your love. Change me Lord, into what you want me to be. Work in me, and work on me, but I pray that you will be merciful to me. Amen.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Reports out just this week confirm that the U.S. has plans to increase its troop presence in Afghanistan as early as this summer. In fact, building construction is already underway in preparation for housing the expected 20,000 individual military troops. In a "change of strategy" admission by the U.S., Defense Secretary Robert Gates says that the new plan under the new president will be to "build up the Afghan army and better cooperate with Kabul on security operations." The U.S. emphasizes that its plan is to "work with" the Afghan country as a partner. This surge in troops is comparable to the rather successful one which had been implemented in Iraq this past year. A key plan for the U.S. in Afghanistan is to increase the size of the Afghan army and police, and that the U.S. forces would be there to train, support, and provide leadership and experience. To sum up what the U.S.’s plans in Afghanistan are to be would be to provide leverage. Most of the U.S. believes that without this leverage, the results in Afghanistan would be very undesirable.

When I hear the word Leverage, I immediately think of a strong and powerful word which conjures up thoughts of moving large boulders or any other insurmountable object in one’s way. A very early quote that I appreciate is this: "Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world." Archimedes (287–212 BC)

Leverage is defined as a mechanical advantage. It could also mean to act effectively by using available tools to your advantage. Or also, to increase output more efficiently by use of a mechanical tool. Also, to provide support by giving something useful or necessary, to supplement what is lacking. Without the advantage of leverage, some tasks simply could not be completed.

In our Christian life, we too can benefit from the advantage of leverage. And I believe that we can get this advantage in various ways. Jesus told his apostles that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit and that the H.S. would give them words to speak. The apostles were fearful of their impending arrest and did not know what they were going to say. But Jesus told them to not be afraid; that they were going to be strengthened – or leveraged by the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:11

Jesus himself was leveraged by his Father God, and also by the Holy Spirit. Just after Jesus was baptized by John, the Father God spoke, and the Holy Spirit came down as a Dove. Those who stood around saw and heard the miraculous event and had no doubt in their minds that Jesus was the son of God. His claim of who he was, was leveraged by these infallible proofs. Luke 3:22

Can we also be leveraged by the Holy Spirit today? Yes. I believe this is plainly taught in the Bible. First of all, the Bible teaches that all spiritual blessings are found “in Christ” not “outside Christ”. See Galatians 3:14, Ephesians 1:3, Romans 3:24, Romans 6:23, Romans 8:1, Romans 8:11, Romans 8:39, Romans 12:5. Apostle Peter described to the 1st century crowd in Jerusalem just how to get into Christ in Acts 2:38. Once in Christ, God will fill us with His spirit, Romans 15:13 and work and move through us for great things.

I must realize that the troubles and struggles I face daily cannot be overcome by me and me alone. I must be leveraged or strengthened some how. But how? God, our faithful father wants to bless us. He wants us to depend on him - Psalms 62:8. He wants us to ask for His help - Luke 11:13.

Another great way for His people to be leveraged is to help and support each other. One of my favorite passages on this subject is when Jesus told Peter this before his betrayal and arrest. Luke 22:32. Jesus told Peter that he prayed for him. What a great way to show your support to your fellow brother. When someone tells me this, it carries me for days. But Jesus didn’t stop there. Jesus told Peter once he retuned to “strengthen your brothers.” When Peter wrote his first epistle to the churches throughout Asia and beyond, he ended his letter with a prayer to the Christians in those churches in this verse, he says: 1 Peter 5:10

I hope that the Lord will use me to leverage others, and I hope the same for you dear reader. God bless.

I’d love to hear your comments, so please feel free to write and encourage me and others by your words.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Music for the Soul

Something you might find interesting about me is that by late August, I am already thinking about the upcoming Christmas season. More specifically, I am already launching my Christmas music play-list in my computer media player. I can listen to Christmas music for months. Not the music that you hear non-stop on the radio the day after Thanksgiving, but the more quiet, contemplative stuff – acoustical guitar music mostly.

The other day, I came across a little music player that fits into the Blogger format. I’m trying it out. I like it, but, some of the song selections only play just a short 30 second clip from the whole song. Consider it a teaser. If you have about 20 minutes of listening time, head over to a newly created page that host some of my favorite Christmas songs by some of my favorite artist. I’d dare say that some of this music and artist – you’ve never heard before.


Enjoy, and I hope this helps to put you into the Christmas Spirit!

If you’d like the link to add this to your blogger site as well, the link is found here:

Add iLike music to your Blogger site found here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008


In our lives, we place a great amount of importance on being first. I am reminded by my younger son, the competitive nature in some children to be the first person in their class to finish their school work. I can remember wanting to be first in line to go to the lunch room, water fountain, or even to the playground. Often times as an adult, I find myself wanting to get something done first that’s important to me. Before I can do this, I must first do this or that. My hard working wife, (may God bless her) will often times say, “I must first balance the check-book, fold clothes, and unload the dishwasher” before she can sit down with me in the evening to visit and watch a little TV together. Often times I tell my kids that, “I have to get this blog entry written before I can play video games with them”. It’s all about priorities. What is my focus, and what is more important to me? I wanted to read a few verses from Jesus that contained the word first as found from the book of Luke.


How can you say to your friend, 'Let me take the bit of sawdust out of your eye'? How can you say this while there is a piece of wood in your own eye? You pretender! First take the piece of wood out of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to take the bit of sawdust out of your friend's eye. - Luke 6:42

If I do not actively seek to find fault with others, then neither will I be judged with close examination. If I do not hold others accountable for their faults, then neither will I be found guilty for mine. If I am able to completely let go of a wrong that someone caused me, then I too will be forgiven. If I am able to give to others who are in need, then I will also receive more blessings than I can imagine. By the same methods of judgment, forgiveness, and benevolence that I administer, then same will be given to me. - Luke 6:37, Luke 6:38. There is only One who is in a position to judge me or anyone else and his name is Jesus. - Psalm 9:8. First things first – I must worry about getting my own life in order and concentrate on following Jesus’ teachings because I realize I will never be perfect and therefore I cannot judge others for something I cannot keep myself.


Once, Jesus and those who were with him were walking along the road. A man said to Jesus, "I will follow you no matter where you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes. Birds of the air have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let dead people bury their own dead. You go and tell others about God's kingdom." Still another man said, "I will follow you, Lord. But first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "Suppose you start to plow and then look back. If you do, you are not fit for service in God's kingdom." - Luke 9:57-62

Those who choose to follow Christ must first prepare themselves to endure all discomforts. But the choice should not be done precipitously, hastily, or without long consideration. One must first consider - long and hard to make a life long commitment to serve Christ. One must first count the cost. Those who are called by God ought to consider the calling one of preference by God and count His calling to be the most important calling - even beyond the temporary, pseudo-obligations that we bind ourselves with – outside of God’s will. Those who follow Christ must at once renounce all worldly cares.


"When you enter a house, first say, 'May this house be blessed with peace.'" - Luke 10:5

Bless someone’s house after you enter before you do anything else. When you enter a house, first say, 'May this house be blessed with peace'. God is pleased with hospitable people, so offer up a blessing to someone's house and home so that God may return the blessing to your host. God is also pleased with thankful people, so we should be grateful for hospitable people and ask God's blessing on them. God is also pleased with peaceful people, so by first being peaceful to others, we may open a door of opportunity for someone to see Christ living in us. Ephesians 2:17, Jude 1:2, 2 Thessalonians 3:16, James 3:18


Just briefly, we can see that there are things that should be accomplished – first. There are things in this life that are important enough to remember to get right on the front-end. However, there are also some Christian characteristics that are better off in second place.

Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, "Try very hard to enter through the narrow door. I tell you, many will try to enter and will not be able to. The owner of the house will get up and close the door. Then you will stand outside knocking and begging. You will say, 'Sir, open the door for us.' "But he will answer, 'I don't know you. And I don't know where you come from.' "Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you. You taught in our streets.' "But he will reply, 'I don't know you. And I don't know where you come from. Get away from me, all you who do evil!' "You will sob and grind your teeth when you see those who are in God's kingdom. You will see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets there. But you yourselves will be thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south. They will take their places at the feast in God's kingdom. Then the last will be first. And the first will be last." - Luke 13:23-30

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Am Thankful

Today was just beautiful! It was a nice, cool day with temps in the mid 60’s and mostly sunny. Perfect. I was also able to leave work early – even before lunch. As a result of my early departure from work, I took advantage of the extra time to go and get some Christmas shopping done. I found just what I wanted for the kids and nothing more. I swung by a food joint after my shopping to pick me up some lunch. On the way home, just as I crossed over the bridge, I had a very delightful sight. Someone had written on the back of their vehicle window in large letters with some window paint. It read, “GIVE THANKS!” How appropriate and how thoughtful this person was, to remind everyone who passed by to stop for a second and reflect on how blessed we are, and to acknowledge the one who blesses us. Honestly, at the time – just before I saw her vehicle, I was looking around at the nice day, thinking of what I had planned later that night, and even over the next couple of days. But I had to stop and give thanks to God for his blessings. But as I was praying, it seemed like I started running out of things to say. I began to stumble over my words and search for things to praise God for. So I decided that I would spend a little time this evening in thinking about just what it was that I was thankful for. Here’s a short list of blessings for which I am thankful:

I am thankful for the Beauty of the Earth. Mother Nature, as we sometimes call it was created by God. Romans 1:20, Romans 1:21 There is just so much to see in this world, that I will never be able to see it all. As beautiful as it is, we’re told not to love this world. 1 John 2:15 We’re also told that as Christians, there’s something better stored up for us on that day. Romans 8:23.

I am thankful for the Holy Spirit. More times than not, I feel inadequate in thanking God and asking God for help. I stumble and stammer for words to speak. I can’t even remember important prayers that need to be spoken, but I believe that God hears me. The Holy Spirit prays for me on behalf of all those I should pray for, and God looks into my heart to see my prayers and request. Romans 8:26, Romans 8:27, Romans 8:28

I am thankful for my great and Godly wife. My wife is worth far more than rubies. I trust her completely. She gives me everything I need. She loves to work. She gets up while it is still dark. She provides food for her family. She uses her money wisely to further prosper. She sees that her hard work pays off and is encouraged to continue working. Her lamp doesn't go out at night, she is the last to go to bed. She is compassionate to the poor. She is prepared for hard times. She speaks wisely. She teaches faithfully. She watches over family matters. She is busy all the time. I praise God for her. - Proverbs 31

I will continue to think long and hard about more of the blessings for which I am thankful, and will continue this same thought next time. In the mean time, don't forget to Give Thanks! Have a great Thanks Giving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thank You, Father.

Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. He traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men met him. They had a skin disease. They were standing close by. And they called out in a loud voice, "Jesus! Master! Have pity on us!" Jesus saw them and said, "Go. Show yourselves to the priests." While they were on the way, they were healed. When one of them saw that he was healed, he came back. He praised God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. The man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Weren't all ten healed? Where are the other nine? Didn't anyone else return and give praise to God except this outsider?" Then Jesus said to him, "Get up and go. Your faith has healed you." - Luke 17:11-19

I’ve been tentatively studying a few examples of Jesus’ emotions. One emotion from Jesus is plain to see in this story. Jesus asked the man three rhetorical questions - questions that He really expected no answer from this thankful man. But instead, Jesus would like to have heard the reasons from each of the other nine.

Ingratitude is another one of those ugly sins which displeases God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. Couldn’t you just hear Jesus’ spirit groan from within for the nine only after being lifted up by the one who returned to offer thanksgiving? Can’t I hear the Holy Spirit groan for me, when I grieve the Holy Spirit in this way?
Ephesians 4:30

If I ever need a wake-up call about being thankful for God’s blessings, I need to re-read Deuteronomy chapter 8. God reminds the Hebrew nation that He brought them up from the land of slavery of Egypt, into a wonderful land of Canaan that was already prepared by another people. Deuteronomy 6:11 God goes into great detail of some of the miraculous blessings that He gave His people. Deuteronomy 8:10 Hosea 13:6 How dare they forget – but they did. Psalms 106:21 And sadly, I forget too many times as well. Romans 1:21

Thanksgiving is my second favorite holiday of the year - only after Christmas. But, if we reflect on another meaning of Thanksgiving, how fitting it is that we can actually give thanks for the many blessings that we've received throughout the year even before the year is over. Think about it – praising God for blessing of the past, and those yet to come! He has so much in store for us, and so much more even waiting on us, if we are faithful with His blessings.
Malachi 3:10

What scares me is the fact that today, our youth is ungrateful. We have raised our children by waiting on them hand and foot, by giving them expensive gifts and toys, and each year gets better (or worse) than before. We’ve also not taught our children the act of giving back to others, or helping someone else besides ourselves. Our children can for the most part get what they want, when they want it. There’s a serious reminder found in 2 Timothy 3:1, 2 Timothy 3:2, 2 Timothy 3:3, 2 Timothy 3:4, 2 Timothy 3:5 Did you see the little U-word in there?

I certainly have studied another topic in which I fall well short in my responsible duties. I want to be thankful. I know that I am truly blessed far more than even 85% of the whole world. How can I not thank God for what He has done. And I know that God has so much more in store for me – whether in this life, or the life to come. He has prepared a way for me to be able to come into His presence and accept his blessings. Galatians 3:14
Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Go, And Bring Me That Donkey

Jesus sent out two of his disciples. He said to them, "Go to the village ahead of you. As soon as you get there, you will find a donkey's colt tied up. No one has ever ridden it. Untie it and bring it here. Someone may ask you, 'Why are you untying it?' If so, say, 'The Lord needs it.'" Those who were sent ahead went and found the young donkey. It was there just as Jesus had told them. They were untying the colt when its owners came. The owners asked them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They replied, "The Lord needs it." Then the disciples brought the colt to Jesus. - Luke 19:29-35

Have you ever been asked to do something that you felt uncomfortable with? Have you ever been asked to do something uncomfortable by someone you loved? For a stranger, I would more than likely fail the test and pass right on by - like a couple of people that's mentioned in the NT. Luke 10:31, Luke 10:32 For a loved one, I would more than likely bear it, or better yet, have a convenient excuse. Each time I read this story as found in the three gospels, I always sigh, and think how uncomfortable that would have been for someone like me. I admit, I have much to work on in serving Christ the way He would want.

For instance, just the other day, my wife and I pulled up into a major department store parking lot, and there was a basket in the open parking space. I couldn’t go any further, and being the gentleman that I am, I asked my sweet wife if she would mind getting out and pushing the basket to the side, so I could finish pulling up into the parking space. She gladly agreed. We then talked about her remembering having to do just that same embarrassing task for her parents when she was growing up, and how much she hated it. Then she told me of her asking our oldest son just the other day to do that too, and how he didn’t like doing that either. My oldest son gets this uncomfortable feeling very honestly from both my wife and myself.

Another story I remember as talked about in the OT is that of Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria. He was also told to do something uncomfortable, unexpected, and embarrassing.
2 Kings 5:9-12 Naaman had developed a skin disease. Naaman’s army had captured a little Hebrew girl who served Naaman’s wife. The little girl had compassion on Naaman, and explained that he could go and see the prophet Elisha, and the prophet would heal him. Naaman packed up and went, expecting the prophet to come out with a loud commotion and heal him. Naaman never saw Elisha. Elisha simply told Naaman to go and do something uncomfortable, unexpected, and embarrassing. Naaman was furious and refused to follow the directions of the prophet. After a while, some of Naaman’s closest friends told Naaman, that this was an easy thing to do. Even if the prophet had told this strong man Naaman to perform some great feat, Naaman could have done it. Why couldn’t Naaman do this easy thing. This sort of reasoning worked for Naaman because he got up and went to the Jordan river and dipped himself seven times, just as the prophet told him to. To his surprise, it worked, and his skin disease was gone, and his skin was pure and clean.

Back to the story of Jesus instructing two of his disciples to go and take this donkey and bring it back to him. How hard would it have been for me, if Jesus were to tell me to go and do this. I’m not sure how well I would have done. But look closer. Jesus sent two. This would have been much easier for me to consider, if I had someone to go with me, to help me, to support me in this task. I should never forget the power that comes from the help of others in the task that Jesus asks of me. I should also make myself available to help others if there is a need. And, there’s always a need by someone for something.

Jesus also gives the two some additional help. He further explains what “may” happen once they get there, and what to do and say “if” what might happen really does happen. He has given them miraculous proof that would leave an undeniable impression upon both of them, which would do nothing more than strengthen their resolve to obey. Jesus has equipped these two people with strength from each other, and proof that they serve Jesus – the son of God. Who else matters to these two, more so than Jesus? If Jesus told these two to perform this task, and gives them proof of what will happen, and it really does come to pass, can’t you just see the grin on both of their faces as they approach Jesus bringing this donkey behind them?

If Jesus were to ask anything of me today, am I willing to be His servant and obey?

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Monday, November 17, 2008

With The Determination Of A Weed

Lawn season is pretty much over in my part of the country – thank goodness. I had a pretty good Summer with a lot of help from my oldest son in mowing the yard. As I stare out over my relatively small yard today, there are patches of tan – dying grass mixed among the still green Bermuda. Again, I love this time of year. However, all is not well in my lawn, as I have already started to see cold-hardy weeds cropping up. They will not last long though. Just long enough to flower, and set seed, and then die. Ever thought about it? Ever notice how quick those Spring-time Dandelions go from cute little Yellow flowers to those beautiful complex “Puff-balls” that every kid finds irresistible? Days. Just days. In no time at all a lawn can be filled with Dandelions and other weeds that seem to crop up over night, spreading their seeds around so that they can do it all over again the following year. The bible talks some about the longevity of plants of the field in Isaiah 40:8, Psalms 103:15, and Psalms 103:16.

What I find amazing about these troublesome plants is their purpose and the time it takes them to perform it. If you remember way back in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the ground and made things more difficult for man as a means of punishment for disobedience. Genesis 3:17, Genesis 3:18. So possibly we have weeds today, in part as a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden. Also, to make us work a little harder out in our gardens and lawns. But still, the weeds themselves are an amazing part of creation. They sprout up from seeds that had been dispersed mostly from the year before. Weeds can quickly take over any piece of ground, because they are very hardy plants. Weeds grow fast, spread quickly, are often able to live in harsh conditions, and are usually very disease resistant. They make flowers very rapidly so that they can be pollinated and start producing seeds. Weeds often produce seeds in great quantities, which are often able to survive long periods of drought or even cold weather. Weed seeds are often able to be transferred by various methods such as through the wind, in water, by sticking to animals, or carried by animals which have eaten the seeds.

My point to all of this explanation on the lowly weed is this:

  • They sprout up and mature quickly.
  • They are very resistant to negative influences.
  • They perform their function of reproducing themselves very quickly.

Despite the negative connotation that comes from the mention of weeds, you have to admit that they are very efficient. How well do I measure up?

Have I matured as quickly as I should? Or do I still struggle with elementary ideas? 1 Corinthians 3:1, 1 Corinthians 3:2, 1 Corinthians 3:3.

How do I compare when it comes to negative criticism or discouragement from others? Do I take it too personal and allow it to quench the Holy Spirit that resides within me? 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Ephesians 6:16.

Am I serving God in the way and for the purpose that He has created me? Or do I find myself distracted in serving my own personal needs first. Do I spread His word to others so that it might be reproduced and continue to spread? Ephesians 2:10, 2 Timothy 4:2.

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beware Of The Dog!

The other morning as I was sitting on my back porch drinking some coffee, I noticed my neighbor’s dog chained up in their back yard. The chain was attached to the corner of their shed, and the dog paced back and forth in an arc from one side of the shed to the other. I’d seen this same image before growing up. I too had a dog I had to tie up because no matter what, she would manage to dig out of the yard and send me on a wild dog chase. At the end of her rope all along the farthest point she could walk, was a well worn path -- the proof of her presence, the limit of her reach. For the outsider, it was a line that shouldn’t be crossed. For me, it was a limit of how close I could get to her, without her jumping up on me and getting my clothes muddy. Occasionally, I would cross the line – the mud worn path and enter into her world to offer her contact, touch, & companionship.

The neighbor’s dog reminded me of that old Looney Tunes cartoon where the big, obnoxious rooster – Foghorn Leghorn would constantly harass the tied-up Barnyard Dog. The rooster would even measure at times, the extent of the dog’s rope, to know just how far or how close he could get without getting chewed on. At some times, the conniving dog would lengthen his rope and catch the unsuspecting rooster and really give him what for.

I started thinking about this story and relating it to another story that’s found in the bible. The 20th chapter of Revelation (a book with which I hesitantly mention because it has so much symbolism, and I am such a novice with its interpretation) also tells us a story about a dog that’s chained up. Well, it’s more accurately described as a dragon, or that old serpent – the Devil.

Just briefly, the story as first read in Revelation 12:9 implies that the Devil was cast out of heaven and given roam over the earth. The Devil no longer pestered God with accusations of His people, but moved through His people on earth and entering into whomever allowed him to. The story again is picked up in Revelation 20:2 in how the Devil was bound by a chain for a time. This chain again implies that the Devil was not destroyed, but was limited to a certain area – kind of like my neighbor’s dog. As long as I stayed away, he could not get to me. But, if I chose to stroll on into his domain, he’d have much to do with me.

The simple point I’d like to offer is this: How easy it is to see a vicious dog on a chain, see the worn path, and know it’s limitations of how far it can move and decide to stay away. It doesn’t take a real bright person to know to stay away from this threat. We know the consequences of stepping across the line. Even an innocent excuse as needing to get a ball that rolled over into this area, and suddenly find ourselves trapped doesn’t diminish the consequences of stepping over into the area.

Sin is the same way. If we think about it, we don’t purposely look at a temptation face to face – eye to eye and say, “I’m going to go in there, grab a coke, be out the door, and be on my way.” It’s a crazy, risky idea and one that needs to be thrown out as quick as possible. In fact, the brightest thing I could think to do, would be to see how far away I could stay away from the threat.
James 4:7
1 Corinthians 10:13

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Church is like a Box of Donuts

The other day, my wife had bought a box of glazed donuts from the store. Ahhh… Now if there were ever a weakness to tempt me – this would be it. I cannot help but love the fresh hot gooey goodness that comes from a card-board box. Well, there are donuts, and then there’s pizza too. By the time I got to the donuts later that same day, I had a chuckle as I opened the box. It reminded me of that little child-hood song where you clasp your hands together, interlocking your fingers and say, “This is the church. This is the steeple. Open the door and see all the people.” And as I open up my hands, I wiggle all of my fingers showing the “people”.

Yes folks, I got a laugh out of that because as soon as I opened the box, even though some donuts were already missing, in my mind I could see a church full of people in those luscious donuts. Everyone dressed the same, looked the same, all the same size, all in their pews where they should be, nice and neat – the perfect church. Needless to say, that church let out quick, ‘cause all them people disappeared in a hurry.

As I thought about that box of perfect church going donuts over the next few days, I started to realize that maybe that church was… well… too perfect. In fact, when was the last time I’d ever seen a church so perfect. Well, never. As much as I try to dress the part, I often time manage to bring a “dent” or maybe I’m missing part of my icing, of maybe my top half is wrinkled. Truth is, when I look closer at that box of perfect glazed donuts, each one is different. From a distance they all look the same, but upon closer examination every donut has its flaws. Every donut is unique, slightly different shape, size, and weight. The characteristics that make the box of glazed donuts seem like
a real church to me, is the fact they are all in the “box” for the specific purpose of:
  • Serving God, and each other.
  • Encouraging each other.
  • Singing to God, and to each other.
  • Communing with God, and with each other.
  • Praying to God, with each other.
  • Studying with each other and allowing God to fill them with His Spirit.

Upon more consideration, I determined that what would represent the church that I read about in the NT, specifically as found in Acts chapter 2, was a church that was made up of practically, every nation! How different can that be? [ Acts 2:9, Acts 2:10, & Acts 2:11 ] Is the church made up of people who are exactly alike in every way? [ Romans 12:4, Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:12, 1 Corinthians 12:13, 1 Corinthians 12:14, 1 Corinthians 12:18, 1 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Corinthians 12:26, 1 Corinthians 12:27 ] Or does God call all? [ 1 Timothy 2:4 ] And, who am I to “screen” this or that person to see if they “fit the mold”. How hard is it to try and squeeze a perfect donut into a square shape? I don’t believe God calls us to be Bakers or any other artist responsible for making something into something else. That is God’s job. [ Acts 10:42, Acts 10:43, Romans 2:16, Romans 14:4, 2 Timothy 4:1 ] God calls us to teach, and leave the rest up to God. [ Acts 4:19, Acts 4:20 ]

Please read over these few verses to see the example of the first NT church.

[ Acts 2:1, Acts 2:5, Acts 2:14, Acts 2:37, Acts 2:38, Acts 2:39, Acts 2:41, Acts 2:42, Acts 2:43, Acts 2:44, Acts 2:45, Acts 2:46, Acts 2:47, Acts 11:26, Acts 14:23, Acts 14:27, Romans 16:1, Romans 16:5, Romans 16:23, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Corinthians 16:19, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 5:27 ]

I'd love to hear your comments about what Church means to you, or if you'd simply like to comment on what flavor or donut you like. :)

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dad, I wish there weren’t any flies.

This is my favorite time of year. Actually, this is the start of my favorite time of year. I just love the cooler weather, the cooler days and nights. My area of the country doesn’t get just freezing cold. And, at this time of year, we're still dealing with flies and mosquitos. But, if it’s not raining, then most evenings I’m out on my back porch staring up at the stars and watching my breath in the air. Ahhh…. I love the Fall and Winter.

This past weekend, I was working on a little home improvement project around the house. My youngest son was helping me, and he was really doing a good job too. It helped make my job much easier that day. As the day went on, It was soon time for lunch. My wife fixed sandwiches and chips for us, and we ate lunch on the back porch. It was a real nice day. As we ate, my son soon realized that he was fanning flies away from his lunch to the point that he was getting pretty frustrated. “Dad, I wish there weren’t any flies around.” He said. I chuckled in agreement, but soon realized that I had a perfect opportunity to remind him of our God. “You know” I said, “Pharaoh, King of Egypt said the same thing.” I gave him a few seconds to let him remember the story which he did and he began recalling the story to me in great detail – with emphasis on the gross, green frogs, the nasty blood in the river, hail, lightning, boils, locust, and more.

I was very proud that he remembered the story. So I continued the story where he left off and made the comment to my son that Pharaoh, King of Egypt did not listen to God. God told Moses to tell Aaron to "Go in to Pharaoh and tell him, 'Thus says the Lord God of the Hebrews: "Let My people go, that they may serve Me."'" Exodus 9:1 I explained that Pharaoh was stubborn, and would not listen to Aaron, Moses, or God. Pharaoh would not learn or believe despite the outrageous plagues that God sent his way. Pharaoh started to change his mind when things got real bad, but as soon as each plague was removed, Pharaoh changed his mind back to being the wicked ruler he was – time and time again. Exodus 8:15

I told my son that whenever we see flies bugging us, we need to remember this story, and remember how God used His creation to help teach us a lesson. God said, "I will multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt... and will use my powerful hand against Egypt. When I judge them with mighty acts, I will bring my people Israel out like an army on the march. Then the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord." Exodus 7:2-5
Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Sower Went to Sow. Part II

Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times. - Mark 4:3-8

Again, my Sunday A.M. bible class talked about this great story as read in the book of Mark. And it’s interesting sometimes to read beyond “what’s in between the lines”. Again, I’ve heard this story before, and I have a pretty good handle on the basic meaning of the scripture. But from time to time, things just pop into my head, or rather, His word is revealed to me in greater understanding. But, the glaring question that I had this morning in class is this; Out of all the soil types that are mentioned in this story, how did the “good” soil become “good”? It’s obvious that the rocky soil that received the seed was rocky because no one bothered to pick up those rocks and move them. It’s also obvious that the path that received the seed was packed down from years of walking back and forth upon it. It was a functional piece of land allowing passage from one area to another. Also, the thorny land that received the seed was thorny because no one had bothered to take the time to remove the thorns and make that piece of land useable for crops. I’ve done just a bit of farming or gardening rather, enough to know that it’s not an easy job. During most of the growing season around in my area, it’s also a hot job too. Matter of fact, there’s not much I’d rather not do, than to pull weeds out of my flower beds. And if you’ve ever seen them, you would have to agree. I give my flowers a good head-start in the spring, but after that, they’re pretty much on their own. So, with a little thought, one could see that this “good” soil that is talked about in Jesus’ story possibly didn’t just happen that way. [Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not reading something into Jesus’ story that is somehow different. I’m not changing the story to mean something else than what Jesus was teaching. I’m simply making an observation that the “good” soil more than likely took some work to make it good.]

I’m suggesting that my life or Christian walk is sometimes filled with things that make it hard for me to grow or produce as I should. I’m also suggesting that the stones and thorns that “crop-up” over time will have to be dealt with. I can either ignore the weeds, letting them continue to grow and spring up and take over my field or my life, or I can take the time to remove them. I’m also suggesting that IF I were to ever succeed in removing all the stones and thorns from my field, or life, that it would not remain that way without working hard to keep it that way. In fact, I’m also suggesting that from time to time, I’ve been known to carry a few large stones around and drop them into my field. How dumb is that? Then, I’ve been known to realize my mistake, and haul them off again. Some rocks I’m sure I don’t even notice any more, even if I happen to trip over them. I’ve realized that I’ve done that before. To trip over the same rock, and just keep on moving, never being bothered by its presence. Sigh.

My whole point to this is; I have control over my life, rather than someone else being responsible for my life. Whether I choose to act correctly or not, it is up to me how my life is tended and cared for. If I’m going to go through the season, barely getting by, sowing and reaping around all the rocks that happen to be just lying around and be less productive. Or, if I’m going to stay vigilant, and stay on top of those weeds and thorns and rocks this year, and not let anything defile my life – and reap a bountiful harvest. The choice is only mine. However, I realize that I cannot do it on my own. I need the help that comes from God, who watches over me and helps me when I can't stand on my own. Without God's help, all my efforts are in vain. But without my efforts, I'm doomed to fail, despite the help that God has already given me.

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Best Substitute for Me

Duck tape is a great substitute for Glue or Nails. Tofu is a great substitute for Meat. Olive Oil is a great substitute for Butter. A healthy smoothie is a great substitute for a traditional fatty meal. Yogurt is a great substitute for cream. Pasta is a great substitute for Rice. There are substitutes for Sugar, Milk, Eggs, Fish, Stone, Wood, Glass, and Fiber. There are substitutes for practically most anything. What used to be the real thing, is now a cheaper, healthier, more efficient counterfeit.

However, I want to remind myself that there is one substitute that can be replaced by nothing else. There is no one else or nothing else that can save me - except Jesus Christ my Lord. When it comes time to stand in judgment before God Almighty, I will not be able to stand there, had it not been for the One who took my place. In my place, Jesus was scorned, was rejected, was filled with sorrow, and was caused to suffer. For my sake, He was alienated, looked down upon, and shown no respect. He went through and suffered things that I should have suffered because of my sin. He bore the pain and agony that was meant for me. He was beaten, mocked, and crucified because I had sinned. He was punished because of what I had done. He carried my judgment and condemnation, so that I wouldn't have to. Because of this great substitute, I am redeemed and forgiven. I am cleansed and healed and made whole again. Not only did Jesus take on my sins, He took on the sins of the world - for everyone! He has made many people Holy because of what He went through. He was punished for our sins. Because Jesus took on the sins of everyone, because He was willing to stand there, in place of me and of you, He will be rewarded. And the good news for me and for you is that because the price has already been paid on our behalf, we will also be rewarded if we are faithful. [paraphrased from Isaiah 53]
I must make no mistake, that this sacrifice – this pain and suffering that was made on my behalf is a "free pass" that allows me to live as I choose. Not at all! This sacrifice was offered to me, if I believe and have faith that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that He alone can save me. I do not want to change the topic, but to say that we must have faith.

Romans 1:16-18
Romans 5:1-2

Am I Listening To What God Is Saying In His Word?

Your comments about your own experiences are welcome.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Be With Me Lord

From time to time, I find myself struggling with making a right or wrong choice. Okay, that may sound like I only have an occasional problem. Actually, every day - throughout the day, I find myself struggling with making the right or wrong decision. I pray to God to help me make the right choices. I pray to God to help keep me strong.

The thought re-occurred to me today and as soon as I had the thought, a chill ran down my back. I wonder if after I just finished praying, if the devil just asked God if he can tempt me. Because as I sit here feeling all energized from my prayer, I suddenly remembered a few quotes in the bible about this sort of thing....

And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren." But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me." - Luke 22:31-34

And also this one...

One day, angels came to the Lord. Satan also came with them. The Lord said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Satan answered, "From traveling all around the earth. I've been going from one end of it to the other." Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you thought about my servant Job? There isn't anyone on earth like him. He is honest. He does what is right. He has respect for me and avoids evil." "You always give Job everything he needs," Satan replied. "That's why he has respect for you. Haven't you guarded him and his family? Haven't you taken care of everything he has? You have blessed everything he does. His flocks and herds are spread all through the land. "But reach out your hand and strike down everything he has. Then I'm sure he will speak evil things against you. In fact, he'll do it right in front of you." The Lord said to Satan, "All right. I am handing everything he has over to you. But do not touch the man himself." Then Satan left the Lord and went on his way. - Job 1:6-12

Now Job was a great man. Of course I remember what most of Job was all about. But in the end, Job remained faithful and never "cursed God and died". He had the attitude, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." - Job 13:15

How do I compare? Lord, Increase My Faith! Lord, I pray that you will watch over me. That you will be there for me when I face decisions. That you will hold my hand, lift me up, turn my head - my face - my body, lead me, carry me - bless me. Lord, thank you for your blessings. You have given me so much - so much more than many others. Physically, You've blessed me with Godly parents, a Godly wife, with children, with a home, with a job, with a car, with food, with clothes, with health, with protection, and with so much more. Spiritually, You've blessed me with forgiveness, mercy, love, grace, faithful examples found in Your word, with many Christian friends to help support me, and with so much more. Thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for watching over me. Amen.

Do I Hear What God Is Saying In His Word?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

God, Samuel, Saul, Agag

Samuel also said to Saul, "The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.' " - 1 Samuel 15:1-3

In an attempt for me to focus on God’s word and will, rather than my own, I wanted to study this story again here briefly. I was reminded of this story a week ago as I prepared myself to teach a group of 4th through 6th graders in Wednesday night Bible class at church. Part of the focus in our class is to cause these impressionable kids to think about doing what their told by God, rather than on what they’d rather do themselves. I need the same lesson. Without spending a lot of time in background research on the reasons why God told king Saul to go and “utterly destroy” the Amalekites, I’m just going to quickly focus on the command, the action, and the result.

So in continuing to read verses 4-9, we see king Saul’s action. He gathered 210,000 men together and took off after the Amalekites and starts the battle. Somewhere and sometime during the day, he captured the king of the Amalekites, Agag. The people also left the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed. –v9 Remember, this was after king Saul had been commanded to “utterly destroy” them all – everything. Saul was influenced by the people – not the other way around.

Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, "I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments." And it grieved Samuel, and he cried out to the Lord all night. - 1 Samuel 15:10-11

So the next day, Samuel went to Saul and upon finding him Saul was proud of his accomplishment. "I have performed the commandment of the Lord." Saul said.

This is one of the most profound statements in the Bible for me. I’m certainly not putting myself in Saul’s position because I am not a leader. But I can see this situation from a different perspective because this story is condensed into one single chapter in the Bible. Bottom line for me is that Saul did NOT do God’s will – even though he thought he did. In fact, an almost comical response to Saul by Samuel is paraphrased this way, “Can you speak up Saul, I can’t hear over all these animals! Where did all these animals come from anyway?” And then we have the classic blame game kind of like Adam and Eve. Saul blamed the people for sparing the “best” for themselves. What a king, what a leader…

Samuel then asked king Saul, “Why did you not obey the voice of the Lord?” And Saul said to Samuel, "But I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and brought back Agag king of Amalek; I have utterly destroyed the Amalekites." Do I see the contradiction there? Do I even need to point it out?

Samuel points out the important theme and I paraphrase it this way: “God has more delight in our obedience to His will/word, than in our own great plans. To obey God is better than any other thing that we can creatively come up with. By rejecting God’s will, God will reject us – just as he did king Saul. By us choosing to do our own will, instead of God’s, God will cut us off. Our will, our desires, our plans are to God worthless and sinful in His sight, if they are not according to His will. Our best intentions are an abomination to God, if they are not patterned after His word.”
Am I Listening To What God is Saying in His Word?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pray without Ceasing....

I've been challenged, tho not directly or even as a dare, but rather invited to participate with a group of Brothers in an evening of prayer. I've got to admit that I'm struggling to find the courage to attend this prayer meeting. In short, it would be the best thing that we could do, IMHO. But the courage to open myself up, and to be real with each other is also humbling. It is definitely an invitation that I know I should accept, however, it is one that causes me some hesitation. Not that I have something to hide. I know I am a sinner, and need God's forgiveness. I also know that he is faithful to forgive. It's more a decision that's based on my personality. The last time I was in a solid hour of prayer was with dear Elder from church and we traded prayer times, and each time I prayed, I became so choked up I found it hard to continue. I suppose that deep down, I realize that I'm in the presence of God Almighty, humbly bowing before Him in prayer. It is an awesome thing to stand in front of God our creator, and I am in awe of His prescence. So, in order to prepare myself mentally for this great form of encouragement, I quickly searched some scriptures to read and think upon. There are several examples found in the Bible of people praying for others. Here are just a few, and I pray that these will help to encourage you, and I hope that you will pray the same thing for me.

Jesus said, "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
- Luke 22:31-32

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.
- Ephesians 6:18-20

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints.
- Colossians 1:3-4

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.
- Colossians 4:2-4

How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:9-10

Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.
- James 5:16-18

Am I Listening to What God Is Saying In His Word?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Phony Pharisees

In the time that I’ve spent studying through the gospels, (which is not as much as I should) I’ve easily noticed an antagonistic people called the Pharisees. I can see all that is written about them in the New Testament, and knew briefly what kind of people they were. But in case you’re like me, and could use a little refresher, here’s a little more background on them:

The Pharisees (the Hebrew word means “the separated ones” or “separatists”) felt that God had set them apart to live by the Torah (the Law, or Teaching, of Moses). For them, this meant following the interpretations of the Torah laid down by generations of teachers. So in a sense, the Pharisees considered the interpretation of the Torah by their Rabbi's to be more important than scripture themselves. Some Pharisees held that a man was righteous if he had done more good than bad, while others apparently followed the stricter group who insisted that even the least implications of the Law must be kept. The Pharisees expected a Messiah (Hebrew for “Anointed One”; Greek: Christ), who would deliver them from foreign oppression (Romans) and rule with justice. However, Jesus of Nazareth had infuriated many Pharisees by interpreting the Law differently and claiming a special relationship with God. Thus, when some Jews began to proclaim Jesus as Messiah and Lord (a term usually reserved for God), strict Pharisees opposed them vehemently.

Hopefully, a short point to this study is taken from a few verses. Jesus warns the people that, in general, the so-called righteousness of these Pharisees was not righteousness at all. Jesus says they worship me in vain. Their worship is useless to Jesus, and to themselves. Matthew 15:8-9

The problem I have personally is that I now realize that I am a Pharisee. Or rather, God willing, that I used to be a Pharisee. I realize that in my 30 plus years of being raised as a Christian, I was taught to question everything. I’ve seen families break up because of arguments over scripture. I’ve seen families dis-associate and cut all ties because of disagreements over scripture. I’ve seen brother dis-own brother because of scripture. And I believe that I was simply too blind to see it then, but now I believe that I was raised and taught to be more of a Pharisee, than I was a follower of Christ. Verse after verse explains just what it was that Christ went through here on this earth – for us, because of these argumentative Pharisees. This Messiah or Christ could not be the one, they said, because he does not agree with our interpretation of scripture. This Messiah is not a follower of “our way” therefore, he is not the one, they said.

I continue to study, but I’d love to share these verses with you, as they have been on my mind for quite some time….In fact, I remember studying these same verses over the past several years. And each time I read them, I would say, I’m glad I’m not like that Pharisee, who thinks better of himself than he should, and I would turn around and judge someone whom I disagreed with, knowing in my heart that they were wrong, because they didn’t think of believe just like me…..what a paradox.

When Jesus taught on the mountain, the beatitudes, he explained that if a person is to teach, he must also follow his own teachings – unlike the Pharisees:
Matthew 5:20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus called Matthew, and Matthew had a large feast in his home for Jesus:
Matthew 9:11 Mark 2:16 Luke 5:30 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, "Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

At the same feast, the Scribes and Pharisees asked Jesus why aren’t his disciples more like themselves – as if they were superior to them:
Matthew 9:14 Mark 2:18 Luke 5:33 Then they said to Him, "Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?"

On one Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples are walking through the grain fields, picking grain to eat as they walked:
Matthew 12:2 Mark 2:24 Luke 6:2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!"

In this case, Jesus really sets the record straight in the fact that these Pharisees were more interested in their own traditions, rather than the commandments of God:
Matthew 15:1-9 Mark 7:5 1 Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying, 2 "Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." 3 He answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' 5 But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God"-- 6 then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 7 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 8 'These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' "

Luke 18:9-14 9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

As if I cannot see the implications myself, Jesus plainly teaches his disciples to avoid the doctrine of the Pharisees. I realize that I am like them. I realize that I must put that off, and not be one of them. I realize that if I am just like them, that I am as pleasing to Jesus, as they were to Him:
Matthew 16:6 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees." 11 "How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?--but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Matthew 23:25 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Matthew 23:27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.

I apologize for being such a fake. I realize that in my own life, I have pointed the finger far too many times at others for stupid, inconsequential things that don’t matter, when I can’t even get my life straight. I’m sorry for being a Pharisee. Instead, I wish to be a follower of Christ. I’m sorry for appearing to be “all together” on the outside, while inside I fight my own set of demons. But most of all, at this moment, I am glad that I realize that what I should be is a follower of Christ. If Christ is my example, then I should follow him. I see a huge difference in the way Christ lived, and who he associated with, than I do with how the Pharisees lived and who they associated with. I'm also reminded of what a very good Elder friend of mine said to me, as I was explaining to him what all I couldn't do, and what others shouldn't do either. He said to me, "I don't focus on what I can't do, but what I can do - and then I do that." Thanks Mr. Dale.
Am I listening to what God is saying in His Word?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Encouragement. A Christian Action.

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today,

I’m learning a little more each day, that this life is a hard life, and one that is impossible to live on my own. In fact, I am so glad that I have such a great family, such a great church, and recently, such a great support group in my closest group of friends. For without all of my associations, I certainly would find it all but impossible to live the Christian life that I’m told to live. There are just so many emotions wrapped up and intertwined in my associations, and all those emotions are exposed on a daily, weekly, and biweekly schedule. More than anything, I’m also learning a little each day that the greatest emotion that I’m to have toward all my associations is the one of Love. Luke 6:27-36 teaches me that I’m to Love my friends, and what’s even more difficult than that is that I’m also to Love my enemies or those who would even hurt me. Remember Jesus and the Love that He showed – even to those who were hanging him to a cross.

Love causes a lot of emotions too; a lot of emotions that I am still learning about. Love causes or allows or enables me to do certain things that I normally would not do. In fact, it’s just human nature for me to hate my enemies. And it’s this hate that would cause me to either run away, to avoid my enemies, or more than that, to plan out and destroy my enemies. The bible is full of these examples. Remember the Philistines and Sampson? Remember the Pharisees and Jesus, or Paul? These people hounded both physically and emotionally, the people of God. In fact, in a sense of the word, I am told that I should not destroy the work of God in this same way. Romans 14 talks about how I as a Christian should not be selfish and flaunt my liberties in front of other weaker Christians because by doing so, I am “destroying” that weaker Christian, and the work of God. There is a Greek word listed in Strong’s number reference 2647, which describes it best this way: to dissolve, disunite (what has been joined together), to destroy, demolish, overthrow, and deprive of success. God would rather have me “build up” my brother or sister, than for me to tear him or her down.

So, it is with that purpose that I will focus on and try to do better. That I may build up my fellow brother or sister, and also to Love everyone more. That I may encourage others as often as I can so that our faith will increase, and so that we will both be built up strong so that we can both stand in front of Satan, and turn our backs away from him and toward Jesus instead. There are many forms of the word encourage, most all would be very helpful to apply to my life. It is beneficial for me as a Christian, a member of the body of Christ, one forgiven by God to encourage another. It is beneficial for me as a Christian, to speak to another, rather than simply walk on by. Again, I'm back to the Love issue. Love of my fellow brother or sister should allow and enable me to “get out of my comfort zone” and stand up and serve in this way. Encouragement can also cause me to console others when they are hurting, sad, or depressed. It would also allow me to rejoice and be happy for others who are happy, instead of being jealous of their good fortune. Encouragement can also mean to speak to my fellow brother or sister in a humble way of teaching them, or reminding them of scripture. It’s sometimes easier for me to see problems in others, and offer my help, than it is for me to see the problems in my own life. But do I see the value of encouragement? If I cannot easily see the wrong in my life, then there’s always a need for me to have someone tell me. I need you, just like you need me, and together we can become stronger.

Even in the most difficult circumstances, encouragement can be found. Remember when apostle Paul was telling the story about the shipwreck on his way to Rome? He was on a boat with several other prisoners and armed guards. On their way, they encountered some very bad weather and the whole crew, 276 people feared for their life. Acts 27:21-36. It was then that the Holy Spirit gave Paul the words to speak, and he encouraged them and gave them instructions on what to do, and then he prayed in front of them all. All of them were encouraged by the words and actions of apostle Paul. They all calmed down, ate some food, followed Paul’s instructions, and all were saved.

When encouraging others is sometimes emotionally draining, it’s so wonderful to hear good words from others about good and happy thoughts. Remember once again the apostle Paul as he was in prison, writing several churches all over the country, and sending his faithful servants like Timothy to churches like the one in Philippi as found in Philippians 2:19. Paul said that he hoped that the Lord would allow him to quickly send Timothy over to the church at Philippi, so that Timothy could asses the status of the church there, and to hopefully inform Paul of the great news that the church is alive and well, and worshipping God in all peace and harmony. Good news is definitely encouraging.

It’s also such an encouragement to lift others up in their service to God. I should be extremely happy and supportive of my fellow brother or sister who chooses to serve God in the way that they have been called. Remember the story of Apollos as found in Acts 18:24-27. Apollos was a very knowledgeable and wise person, well trained in the scriptures and full of the Holy Spirit. When he wanted to go to other parts of the country to teach the word, he had many others who supported him in various ways. There were some there who even wrote reference letters for him to take with him as proof of his character, wisdom, and support from the church at Ephesus. I should also support my fellow brother or sister in their efforts to reach the lost for Christ.

I could go on and on, and I find this article already getting long. But, I have definitely made it a mission to try and “touch” others in this special way. It’s plain to see that it does so much good for others to be encouraged, but it also has the selfish benefit of encouraging myself as well. However, I would certainly covet your encouragement as well. It would really go a long way to lifting my spirits up, and I believe that you would quickly find that it would do the same for you, and the favor would definitely be returned.
Am I Listening to What God is Saying in His Word?