Proverbs 17:3 -The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,but the Lord tests the heart.
A friend of mine just went through a stress test for his heart. He was sure that he didn't have anything wrong with it. He eats right, exercises, and monitors his vitals every morning. For 58 years old he is a model of good health... so he thought. But his stress test revealed that he has some minor issues with his heart and further testing is required.
There has been a lot of talk about prejudice and bigotry this week since the tragic events of Charlottesville, VA. It is ironic that sometimes those who condemn others of intolerance and bigotry often have the same seeds of hate in their heart. I find myself getting angry at the injustice, the hate, the murder, the unrighteousness, and blatant sin that is ramped in our society today. I often wonder if the world has gone out of it's mind. Sin and maddness are only a thin layer apart.
I want to say that this is a "righteous indignation" that I have inside me. But the Bible reminds me that there are none who are righteous (Ro 3:10-18; Ec 7:20; Ps 5:9; 14:1-3; 36:1; 53:1-3; 140:3;10:7; Is 59:7,8) except Jesus Christ. The righteousness that I have is not from me but from Christ who makes me righteous. Therefore, I cannot have a righteous indignation. I just have indignation...and that's not much different than having anger and hate in my heart.
I see King David wrestled with these things too. Psalm 139 is a beautiful poem of David's fight with trying to be in line with God's will and his way. In it he says, "If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies" (Ps 139:19-22).
It's easy to get into the habit of hating the haters. But that puts us in danger of taking God's will into our own hands. David concludes with this prayer: "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps 139:23-24).
As I pray for my friends heart issues I am reminded to pray for my spiritual heart as well. I am praying that God will search my heart and cleanse me of all the unrighteousness that has settled there. I pray that he will fill my heart with the love of Jesus. I pray that he will rid me of prejudice, bigotry, and hate. I pray that he will let the love of Jesus shine through me so that some might see it and turn from their ways too.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, It is easy to be indignant with those who are perverting your ways and using your name to justify their actions. But Father, help me to shine the light of love, grace, and hope that comes from you. You loved me so much that you gave your Son, Jesus Christ, to die in my place so that I could have eternal life with you. You did the same for all who would call on the name of Jesus Christ. It is in the name of Jesus Christ that I pray. AMEN!
Common Sense is Cheap; Wisdom is Priceless
I heard someone comment that people don't have any common sense anymore. At first, I found myself agreeing with that statement... and then I thought about it. I know he meant that people just don't use good judgement. Of course he was using the word "common" in the sense that it's something that we all have in the community in which we live. But common also has the connotation of cheap and trashy. My grandmother once commented that make-up makes a girl look common and everyone in the room knew what she meant!
I believe that writer of Proverbs has a better handle on the problem. It isn't common sense that people lack but wisdom. In the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified as a woman, a teacher, who is trying to call people in from their "simple" and foolish ways.
“I, wisdom, dwell together with Prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power" (Proverbs 8:12-14).
Folly is also personified. She seems fun and inviting but she leads to laziness, pride, arrogance, adultery, foolish living, and death. Folly is depicted as a harlot who entices and seduces people into living by their selfish desires.
Wisdom on the other hand has built her house on the seven pillars. Pillars hold up the roof of the house which protects those in the house from the elements. The seven pillars of wisdom protect those within from the elements of evil, arrogance, and perversity.
Jesus built the blessings or beatitudes from the seven pillars (Matthew 5:3-12):
#1 Poor in spirit. Humble.
#2 Mournful. Hates evil, sighs and cries for the corruption.
#3 Meek. Mild disposition, subtle, wise as serpents, harmless as doves.
#4 Seekers of righteousness. Searching to do things God's way.
#5 Merciful. Compassionate, sympathetic, empathic.
#6 Pure. Free from corruption.
James also used these seven pillars when he said that we should seek wisdom from above: "Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness." (James 3:13-18).
Unfortunately, as one of the comedians says, "You can't fix stupid." You cannot make people wiser. They have to want to seek wisdom for themselves. You can pray for them to be humbled and seek wisdom but you can't "pray the stupid out of them."
You may not be able to fix others but you can receive wisdom for yourself. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." The key to spiritual living is a humble and submissive heart. When you humble yourself and ask God for his wisdom you will receive it.
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, It is easy to judge others who make foolish and careless decisions. But if I am honest I have to admit that I make a lot of stupid decisions too based on my own wants and desires. Help me to remember who I am in you and to seek your wisdom and discernment in making decisions. Help me to keep my mouth shut and not to hastily comment without seeking your wisdom. Thank you for Jesus Christ. It is in his name and authority that I pray. AMEN!
31 Christian Ways To Reduce Stress
24. Exercise - Proverbs 24:5
Proverbs 24:5 -A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength. (KJV)
When a person is depressed they often sit or lay around the house. Most of us do this when we are feeling stressed out or anxious. But sitting or laying around is actually the worst thing you can do. It makes your mind race and your thoughts get away from you. Or you slip into a world where you don’t have to think at all.
The answer is to get up and go exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic exercise "increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day." Exercise increase the flow of endorphins which are chemicals that are released from the pituitary gland that make the brain feel good and help reduce pain.
A while back I went to the hospital with a man whose wife was having major surgery. I was concerned about this man because he sometimes let’s stress get to him until he gets physically ill. But after his wife went back for surgery we had prayer and he excused himself. What I didn’t know was that he went down to the rehab facility and got on the treadmill. They even let him take a shower down there. He came back and was ready for whatever happened.
Another benefit to exercise is that it helps you to focus on other things. It is “meditation in motion”. I often pray, quote scriptures, or meditate on God’s word when I run or walk. I often feel closer to the Lord when I get done.
And there is a third benefit. Exercise can help you burn unwanted calories and fat that slow us down and make us feel sluggish. When you feel sluggish it is easy to get in a cycle of frustration and depression.
The weather is getting nicer and it is time to burn off some stress. Get outside today and do some exercises. May God bless you as you increase your strength and knowledge today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: You, Oh Lord, are God Almighty! Your power and might are known throughout the world of all generations. Help me to get out of my chair today and move more. Let me meditate on your word as I walk and run with you by my side. Thank you for Jesus and the gift of life. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
31 Christian Ways To Reduce Stress
23. Laugh And Then Laugh some more! - Proverbs 17:22
Proverbs 17:22 -A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.
I recently ordered a new blade for my Universal Meat Chopper Model 323. I had it sitting on my desk so as soon as the blade came in I could make sure it fits as the grinder is rather old. The blade fit and I was very happy. I was thinking of the things that I would chop up so I left it on my desk instead of putting it away.
A day or two later, while I was typing out the next day's blog entitled "31 Christian Ways to Reduce Stress,” I notice the grinder had something stuck inside it. When I opened it up it was obvious that someone had used it and left it a mess. Upon inspection and interrogation I found that someone had tested the chopper with bubble gum! It was all over the new blade (knife), the plate, screw, and inside the body and throat. Uck!
We (the guilty party and I) spent the next half hour cleaning out the tiny holes and nooks and crannies that normally would clean quickly with soap and water. We had to use peanut butter, small brushes, oral picks and floss to remove all the gum. It worked.
I believe that God is testing my resolve in reducing stress. It's like when you pray for patience and God piles more on you. He isn't going to zap you with patience but he is going to help you build patience. He also is not going to tap you with a wand to remove all your stress. You have to learn to trust him.
One of the ways that we can remove stress is to laugh. That is why I am telling you this story. I could be mad... and I have to admit I was at first. But now it seems funny so I am passing my experience on so that you can smile too.
Laughter is a good medicine. Sarah named her son Laughter (Issac) because of the joy he brought to her in her old age. In Psalm 37, God laughs at the wicked because he knows there day of judgment is coming. Jesus is recorded as using humor to address some pretty serious issues in over 37 different places. I can imagine he and the disciples often had a good laugh even in the face of opposition.
It is my prayer that God blesses you today with a merry heart. May your laughter keep you from getting stressed out. Have a great day!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father, You laugh at the foolishness of godless rulers and wicked men. You delight in your children and sing over them. You used humor in sharing your holy word with us. Help me to lighten up and laugh more. Thank you for Jesus. It is in his name that I come to you in prayer, AMEN!
22. Remember the Cross - 1 Corinthians 1:18
1 Corinthians 1:18 -For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.
The other day I was reading in the Bible about Jesus in the garden on the night of his betrayal. I discovered a verse that I have heard a thousand times but it hit me with new meaning. “Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). How can any stress or anguish I bear be greater than what my savior experience before and during the cross? It can’t compare.
Jesus bore the cross for all the sins of the world. God is light and there is no darkness in him at all (1 Jn 1:5). So when Jesus took on all our sins he became estranged from God. He bore our sins all alone.
When I think of the cross I am strengthened and my troubles fade. If my savior can bear the load of the world than I believe he will help me carry my load. I believe that the shortest bridge between despair and hope is the cross of Jesus. I when I remember the cross I am compelled to get on my knees and say, “Thank-you, Jesus.”
I never met Verna Thomas of McGehee, Arkansas. But I know a poem that she wrote that has inspired millions of people to think and look to the cross in their times of trouble and in peace. The title of the poem is “The Cross in My Pocket”.
I carry a Cross in my Pocket
A simple reminder to me
Of the fact that I am a Christian
No matter where I may be
This little Cross is not magic
Nor is it a good luck charm
It isn't meant to protect me
From every physical harm.
It's not for identification
For all the world to see
It simply is an understanding
Between my Savior and me
When I put my hand in my pocket
To bring out a coin or a key
The Cross is there to remind me
Of the price He paid for me.
It reminds me too, to be thankful
For my blessings day by day
And to strive to serve Him better
In all that I do and say.
It is also a daily reminder
Of the peace and comfort I share
With all who know my Master
And give themselves to His care.
So, I carry a Cross in my pocket
Reminding me, no one but me
That Jesus Christ is Lord of my life
If only I'll let Him be.
May God bless you today as you look to the cross during your times of anguish and remember that Jesus Christ bore that cross and all our sins so that we could have the hope of eternal life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Savior Devine; I want to thank you for your grace and forgiveness which was extended to me through your Son Jesus who bore all my sin and sorrow on the cross. Help me to extend forgiveness in the same way. Help me to find strength in his suffering when my load becomes heavy and hard to bear. I love you, Lord. You are my rock, my strength, and my shelter. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
21. Nip It in the Bud! - Galatians 5:9
Galatians 5:9 -A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough.
One of my favorite shows of all-time has got to be The Andy Griffith Show. Of course, Barney weighs into that factor. I love the way he walks, talks, and acts like a clown. Some of his sayings are notorious not because he invented them but because the way he said them. My favorite saying is “We’ve got to nip this in the bud.”
Of course what he is talking about is taking care of small matters before they become big. In the New Testament era they had a similiar saying, “A little yeast leavens the whole lump of dough.” A little trouble can bring about big problems. Paul used this idiom when he spoke of false teachings of one individual that effected the whole church.
Small problems don’t just go away on there own. If ignored they can balloon out of control and cause you a whole lot of headaches. When a small problem arises give it to God on the spot. Talk to him about it in prayer. Don't wait until it's time to go to bed to try and pray. Stop where you are and do it.
It is one of my pet peeves that we often tell someone we will pray for them and then we don’t. We get distracted or we forget and we never put it before God. We need to stop what we are doing and pray for that person on the spot. We need to pray for little problems when they are little instead of waiting for them to get bigger.
I was waiting in the mall for my wife to shop one time when two people met up with each other near where I was sitting. They must have old friends because they laughed and hugged when they greeted each other. I couldn’t help but hear the conversation because they were rather joyful. Then one of the friends said, “I noticed you haven’t been in church lately. Are you okay?” With that the person hymned and hawed all around and then said, “I have a small problem.” Their tones went hushed as they talked for a few minutes. My attention went elsewhere but when I look back at them again they were praying. One friend holding up another’s “small problem” and taking it before God. I was choked up by the sight.
So don’t let your small troubles become big problems. Pray to God and “nip it in the bud.” May God bless you today as you lay your small and big problems at his feet. Walk away and don’t pick them up again. Trust the Lord to handle even the smallest of problems.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy God; I praise you for being able to hand all my problems both big and small. Thank you for being there for me when I call. I ask that you help me to be more diligent in praying for others and taking every little thing to you. You are awesome! In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
20. Don’t be Lazy - Proverbs 18:9
Proverbs 18:9 - The one who is truly lazy in his work is brother to a vandal.
When I was a kid my mother used to come into my messy room and say, “It looks like the Vandals broke in to pillage and sacked up your room.” When I read Proverbs 18:9 I always smile and think of my messy room.
I am learning the hard way that taking one step now will save you 3 or more steps later. I am trying to be patient and teach that to others in my house too.
I was in a bit of a hurry so I quickly put the trash bag outside the door intending to take it to the dump. But time got away from me and the bag set outside the door. That night some wild animal found a quick buffet of my trash and the wind help spread the mess across the lawn. The next morning I woke to a beautiful sunrise and a messy lawn that took a while to pick up. It would have only been another 2 minutes to secure that bag in the trash can but I took a shortcut and paid for it.
While the family was sick I started washing the clothes (much to my wife’s dismay). One thing that frustrated me was having to take the time to fix the clothes that were inside-out. Now I could understand my wife’s frustration and I have made a better effort to straight my clothes before I put them in the hamper.
There are other things you can do to reduce stress by just taking one extra step now. When I cook I keep clean soapy water in the sink so that I can go ahead and wash the dishes as their dirtied so that I don’t have a big mess to clean up later. When I eat in the car I carry my trash to the can when I get out so that I don’t have to sort through old trash later when I clean out the car. I fill up the extra gas can when I go to fill up my car so when it comes time to mow the grass I don’t have to take time to go to the gas station.
May God bless you as help you to take one step now to avoid 3 or more later.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, I praise you for eternal nature and majesty. Help me not to be lazy but to think a few steps ahead. Thank you for Jesus and the love that you showed me through the cross. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, I praise you for eternal nature and majesty. Help me not to be lazy but to think a few steps ahead. Thank you for Jesus and the love that you showed me through the cross. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
19. Play with kids - Psalm 127:3
Psalm 127:3 - Sons are indeed a blessing from the Lord, children, a reward.
Most people look at taking care of children as stressful. But, if you have the right attitude, you may find that it is a blessing and helps REDUCE stress.
Last month we had “dinner and a movie” night at our church. We get together for a covered-dish meal and then watch a Christian movie on the big screen in the Sanctuary. The little children often go to the nursery for a kids movie and play time.
The person who usually watches the kids had not seen the movie the at we going to watch. I knew she could benefit from seeing it so I volunteered to watch the kids.
At first, I sat and watched the kids play. We had videos playing on the tv but none of them were really watching. They were all playing. Some were playing together and others were content to play by themselves.
After about 30 minutes I could tell they were getting a bit bored. So I crawled on hands and knees to the middle of the room making lots of monster noises. Some of the kids screamed and ran away and a couple of brave ones “attacked” this “monster”. Soon all the kids were on top trying to bring down the beast. This game only lasted about 10 minutes but it was fun and got everyone’s attention. The best part of it was that I felt good.
My kids are all grown. But that doesn’t mean I have to give up playing with children. One of the blessings in playing with children is that it keeps us young and distracts our mind. It has a way of reducing stress.
Instead of turning your child away because you are tired or because your feet hurt or whatever the reason, try playing a bit of tag or hid and seek. It will benefit the child as well as you.
May God bless you as you get down and play with these blessings of God.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father, Thank you for the blessings of children. Help me learn the lessons of the Kingdom through their eyes. Help me to spend some time playing together. Don’t let me say that I am too tired or too sore. Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me and hinder them not for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Thank you for children. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father, Thank you for the blessings of children. Help me learn the lessons of the Kingdom through their eyes. Help me to spend some time playing together. Don’t let me say that I am too tired or too sore. Jesus said, “Let the little children come unto me and hinder them not for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Thank you for children. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.
18. Eat right - 1 Corinthians 10:31
1 Corinthians 10:31 -So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
I believe that one of the reasons so many of us Christians in the USA have problems with stress, illness, and our spiritual walk is that we have been eating unhealthy. I remember a missionary from India who came to speak at the church. One of the people asked the missionary what was the chief problem in the church today. The missionary without missing a beat said, “Too many covered dish meals.” He went on to say that he felt like the church has become tired, lazy, and fat. and as a result it has affected every area of service and doctrine. I had to admire his honesty since his over half of his support came from the church he where he was speaking.
When we do not eat right and exercise we become physically overweight. When we gain weight it puts extra strain on our joints which start to hurt. When we start to hurt we sit around more. When we sit around more we gain even more weight. So the cycle continues until we have become sedentary, in other words, tired, lazy, and fat.
This doesn’t just effect us physically. It effects our minds and our hearts. When that happens it begins to effect us spiritually. We do less at church. We serve less in our community. And our witness for Christ is diminished.
When we are overweight and cannot do things like we used to do them we can become overstressed. We begin to internalize more and more because there is less that we can do about them physically.
If you want to feel better about yourself and relieve some of the stress in you life you need to get active and eat healthier foods. Just look at the difference a healthy diet and spiritual steadfastness made for Daniel and his friends (Daniel 1). It can do miracles for you too.
May God bless you today as you change your attitude about food and exercise. Get up and seize the day in the name of Jesus Christ!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Most Gracious Heavenly Father; I praise you for all you have made and have done for me. I ask right now that you help me to make better choices and to get up and move more. You are my God and king. Give me the strength, the energy, the drive to work hard in your kingdom. In Jesus precious name I pray, AMEN!
17. Private Time - Luke 5:16
Luke 5:16 - Yet He often withdrew to deserted places and prayed.
There are a lot of counselors, both Christian and secular, that promote “me time”. They will tell you that it is beneficial for you to reorganize your thoughts and preserve your sanity. I would agree that time alone can be beneficial. Many will throw in that Jesus often went off alone for some private time.
But there are a few things that I need to point out about this “me time”:
1. We can never really be alone. David wrote in Psalm 139, “Where can I go to escape Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence?” His questions were written as a praise to God who is always there. Since God is always with us we need to realize that “me time” is really “us time”. Even when Jesus went off to be alone he spent that time in prayer and fellowship with God.
2. We never escape reality. The reality is that we who are in Christ live in his Kingdom. God is king (Ps. 103:19) and we live, move, and breath under his authority and rules whether anyone else is around or not (Acts 17:28). Some might think that “me time” is a way to shed the rules and do whatever we want. As Christians we are happy to be subjects in his kingdom and we receive his full care and benefits (Ps 136). If we are going to have a private time it should not be to escape the rules but to bask in God’s care and love as he ministers to our hurting spirit.
3. Our time is not our own. Since we live in the kingdom and God is our king who created us and owns all we must admit that we can never really have “me time”. Those around us may try to make us believe otherwise but the truth is “no man can possess time.” Time cannot be bought even though it is spent. To demand time for self and for self interest comes from a selfish and sinful heart. That is why James states that we should put God’s will before our plans (James 4:13-17). How we spend time alone must ultimately be how he wants us to spend it.
4. The idea of “me” is opposite in the Kingdom of Christ. The world will tell you that if you assert yourself and live life on your terms you will be happy. But in the Kingdom of Christ you will not find that idea at all. In fact you will find the opposing idea. We are to submit, be humble, be giving, be kind, be serving, and be His.
When the disciples disputed over who is the greatest, Jesus declared the greatest will be the least (Luke 22:26). At other times, he said the first in this world will be last (Matt. 19:30). The humble will be exalted (Matt. 23:12). Giving is better than receiving (Acts 20:35). And dying brings life (Luke 9:24).
So is “me time” wrong? No, but you need to do it with the right motive and intention. Private time should be a time to recharge your batteries physically, mentally and especially spiritually. You should include God in your private time and discuss your plans, goals, and aspirations in light of his will and word. And private time should never be done to the neglect of your responsibilities and your family.
May God bless you as you take time to recharge and refresh yourself in God’s will and word.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God Almighty, give me the strength for this day…this moment. Help me not to neglect my responsibilities or my family. Keep me focused on what is important and not on self. Fill me with your presence and with your will and word for my life. Help me to be the man you have called me to be for your Kingdom. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
16. Write down thoughts and inspirations - Psalm 16:8
Psalm 16:8 - I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
When my troubles seem dark my thinking sometimes goes black. The other night I was feeling sorry for myself and counting my sorrows while sitting at my desk. As dark thoughts and feelings flooded across my mind one hit me like a slap in the face.
“Nobody likes you,” slipped into my head. I sat up straight.
That’s not true. I started recounting people who were my friends and who have shown their love and concern for me. And, of course, God loves me. He sent Jesus to die for my sins and give me abundant life in him. I know that “nobody likes me” is a lie.
Where did that come from? How did a lie get in there? It came from the “Father of lies”. It came from Satan. He often tries to inject his lies into our thinking, especially when we are troubled or thinking dark thoughts. For some people his lies will take them to the point of depression or even suicide. But I recognized that lie and shook off the dark thinking.
I began to read scripture verses that were encouraging and uplifting. In my mind I said, “Get behind me, Satan!” The dark thoughts and gloom began to fade. I grabbed a note pad and started jotting down all the beautiful slogans, quotes, and sayings that would help bring light into the darkness. Then I started writing down some scripture references that I could use the next time Satan tried to sneak his lies into my thinking. Here are just a few for you too:
Psalm 34:8,19; 37:4; 90:17; 103:2-6; 121:1-2;
Proverbs 3:5-6; 16:3;
1 Peter 5:7;
1 John 4:4
There are, of course, many more.
It helps to write things out. There is something about your brain opening up and your hand moving across a page that is therapeutic. Writing down beautiful things makes your heart sing and your worries and anxieties fade (Ph 4:8). And it is a good way to get Satan out of your head.
May God bless you today as you fill your heart and mind with beautiful things. Make sure to write them down. You may consider starting a beautiful thoughts journal.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Beautiful Savior; Thank you for the wonders of your creation, the beauty of heaven, and your glorious presence in my life. Help me to focus on the good things and fill my heart, mind, and note pad with the beautiful things that combat the dirty lies Satan tries to use to defeat me. Thank you for Jesus and his atoning blood. It is in his name that I pray, AMEN!
15. Do something for the Kid in You everyday - Ecclesiastes 11:10
Ecclesiastes 11:10 - Remove sorrow from your heart,
and put away pain from your flesh,
because youth and the prime of life are fleeting.
I once did a Bible Study with a group of teenagers on the book of Ecclesiastes. When we had concluded after about 8 weeks I asked the kids what they thought the lesson “The Teacher” was trying to get across. One of the boys said, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanityI” in his best over-the-top Shakespearian voice. Another boy said, “Life is pointless without God.” And then a girl said, “God should be the prime directive of our lives and not all the other stuff.” I was proud that my class seemed to follow the along and understand that following God is the main point of the book (Ec 12:13-14)
Let’s face it. “The Teacher” does come across a bit melodramatic and depressing when everything seems to have no meaning at all. Sometimes Ecclesiastes reminds me of the old films they made us watch in drivers ed like “Signal 30,” “Last Date,” “Red Asphalt,” and “American Highway: Way of Life, Way of Death.” The fact that anyone wants to drive after seeing those is really amazing. (all of these old classics can be viewed on Youtube…if you dare!) But I guess we do because no one ever thinks it will happen to them.
One of my favorite sayings of “The Teacher” is Ecclesiastes 11:10 which basically says enjoy yourself while you can because your good days quickly vanish. I believe this is good advise for us old, uptight adults too. We need to let the young kid in us come and and play at times. No, we don’t have to ride a skateboard or go bungee jumping. We just have to learn to have fun again.
Remember when you used to pick up a stick and become a pirate or musketeer with a sword? The big box a toy came in was 10 times more fun than the toy inside. And let’s not forget the simple pleasure of letting the mud ooze through your toes as you walked barefoot through a muddy puddle.That’s the spirit! Now get out the play dough and the coloring books and enjoy.
Games for grown-ups are good too. I once watched a group of elderly men and women laughing while they sat around the table playing Mexican Train Dominoes. They laughed so and carried on like children. No one would have accused them of being old.
You can also do other things that help you take hold of your inner child. Use your imagination and watch the stress melt away.
May God bless you as you celebrate the abundant life that we have in Jesus Christ.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; I know that you laugh with us when we let the kid out. I thank you for my grandkids and playing on the carpet. I praise you for the simple games that we made up when we were kids. Help me to let go of the “adult worries and responsibilities” once in a while and embrace the joy of youth once again. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; I know that you laugh with us when we let the kid out. I thank you for my grandkids and playing on the carpet. I praise you for the simple games that we made up when we were kids. Help me to let go of the “adult worries and responsibilities” once in a while and embrace the joy of youth once again. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
14. K.M.S. (Keep Mouth Shut) - Proverbs 13:3
Proverbs 13:3 - Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.
Ouch! If ever there was something to learn it is this. I’ve been working on it for nearly 57 years and I still don’t know if I have got it… cause I don’t. From the first goo-goo to my latest rambling there is a common thread. I talk too much. My mother used to call me a “chatter-box.”
It isn’t always what you say but how you say it. And it isn’t always how much you say but knowing when to stop. And it isn’t always whether you know what your talking about as much as knowing when to talk about it. So it can be prudent to keep a tight lid on your tongue. Human communications can be complicated indeed!
Now I’m not saying that you can’t speak your mind. But If you do be sure you think and rethink of the consequences before you do. Make sure that it is really worth it.
Another thing is that it is not about whether you are right or not. You can be 100% right and still be 100% wrong. You don’t have to prove your point. In fact, most people who press their point even when they are right often end up causing themselves more stress because people resent it (especially if you say, “I told you so”.)
I’m also not talking about giving up on communication all together and sitting in silence. Solomon said to guard your lips. That means to make sure that what you have to say is necessary and helpful. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have been right in my cause but still managed to get myself in a heap of trouble.
My father used to say, “Better that people think you are a fool than to open you mouth and remove all doubt.” He also had other gems of wisdom like, “Don’t open your mouth and let your brain go on parade,” or “Make sure to put your brain in gear before you open your mouth.” Of course my favorite one that he used to tell me when I was talking too much was “you need to let your tongue cool down before your head catches fire.”
God heard all my parents prayers and concern for the “chatter-box” and put him to work in His kingdom as a preacher! Who would have guessed?
One of the things we can do to reduce stress is to listen more and talk less.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Almighty God; My mouth can be my worst enemy. Yet, It can also sing beautiful praises to you, pray heartfelt prayers, and speak powerful sermons. I ask you to use my mouth for your glory. Let beautiful psalms roll off my tongue. Let my lips proclaim your majesty and wonder. And tell me when to be silent too. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
13. Have Backups - Psalm 94:19
Psalm 94:19 - When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
One of the doctors who was treating me for migraine headaches years ago asked me what was stressing me out. I laughed and said that I wasn’t having any stress. He told me that everyone has stress we just don’t always know it.
Yes, we all know the kind of stress we deal with when nothing is going according to our plans or when everything seems to go wrong. We all know the stress of screaming kids, loud noises, and flashing lights. But what about the stress you don’t seem to see?
What the doctor revealed to me is that stress can be anything that is out of your routine or comfort zone. You get in an elevator that seems to stop at every floor but yours. Someone left crumbs on your desk. You get in your car and you notice the gas gauge indicates less fuel than you thought was in the tank. You get in the express lane at the grocery and the lady in front of you clearly has more than 20 items. Yes, this is stress too.
One of my little stresses is when I go to mail a letter and there is no stamps. My mind immediately flashes to the long line at the post office and the drive over there. Then when I finally get ready to go I can’t find my key to the car because someone forgot to put it back. When I finally get home I can’t get in my house because the key to the house was on the ring I couldn’t find earlier.
One way to avoid some of the little stresses in life is to think ahead and have backups: extra keys, extra stamps, extra money, etc..
You also need to have a backup plan. Living in the mountains we get some very windy days. One thing that cause me extra stress is when I hear the trash cans go rattling down the road toward the ditch or waking up to find all the garbage scattered across my lawn and in my neighbors yard. Recently I have paid a little closer attention to the weather so that if I know it is going to get windy I simply put the garbage cans in the shed. This simple backup plan keeps us from stressing out.
Living in the mountains you have to be ready for snow, ice, wind, and the power outage that can come with them. We have a kerosene heater and some fuel for just such emergencies. We also keep plenty of batteries, flashlights, and candles.
A few years ago we were living at the coast when a hurricane came through. We were prepared and did well still having lights as 2/3 of the storm had already pasted. But in that last big bite of the hurricane the lights went out. I thought it was going to be horrible but we rather enjoyed the peace and quiet, eating off the grill, and living by candle light. In a way it was kind of like a retreat or campout!
May God bless you today as you work out your backup. My God’s consolation bring you joy when the stressful day comes.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, Why do I sweat the small stuff? Why do I let a speck of sawdust trip me up like a fallen tree in my path? Help me to let go and to plan ahead. Thank you for the peace that I find in Jesus Christ. Thank you for your love, grace, and consolation. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
12. Live within your means - Proverbs 3:9-10
Proverbs 3:9-10 -Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine.
We live in a day when it is easy and tempting to use credit cards or loans to pay for whatever we need or desire. There are so many people who have fallen into a trap that sometimes seems like there is not escape. I myself have been guilty of buying on contract instead of saving ahead.
I appreciate my father-in-laws example. He did not even have a credit card until after his kids were out of the house. He tried to pay all his bills on time or before the due date. And he did so on a small church preacher’s salary.
He wasn’t resentful for a small paycheck. He counted it a blessing to server the Lord and he was content with what he had. He saved back for and divided his pay check so that he could not only pay his bills and provide for his family but he could honor the Lord.
In fact, I believe that honoring the Lord is how he did so well. Most people give to the Lord out of their surplus. When the coffers are low they give a small offering. When the coffers are full they may give a bit more. But my father-in-law consistently gave his tithes and offerings each week in spite of the how much money was in his wallet. He set aside his tithes and offerings before he paid a single thing to anyone else. He gave of his firstfruits and not of his surplus.
I am not someone who preaches “health, wealth, and wisdom” theology because that contradicts the word of God. God teaches that we should rely on him and be content with whatever the situation. But I do believe that people would struggle less with finances and be much happier if they just honored God first with what he gives to them.
May God bless you this day as you honor him with your finances. May he help you be content and live within your means.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Jehovah Jireh, You are the God that provides for me. Help me to be content and live within my means. I want to honor you with my finances and offer you the service and offering you desire and deserve. Thank you for loving me and sending your Son, Jesus as a ransom for my sin. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Jehovah Jireh, You are the God that provides for me. Help me to be content and live within my means. I want to honor you with my finances and offer you the service and offering you desire and deserve. Thank you for loving me and sending your Son, Jesus as a ransom for my sin. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
11. Separate Worries from Concerns -1 Peter 5:7
1 Peter 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
It often helps reduce or remove stress when you learn the difference between worries and concerns. A concern is a situation that develops that may or may not be beyond your control. The first step is to pray and find out what God would have you do and to let go of the situation into his care. Be open to his leading to prompt you into action. But if the situation is totally beyond your control it can easily become a worry. You must leave it at the throne of God and trust in him to do something about it.
I am often guilty of giving something to God and then picking it back up and worrying about it. That is not trust in God. That is taking a concern and allowing it to become worry.
This last week a nasty stomach bug entered our house. It spread through the whole family hitting several of us more than once. I sat up and worried because I was afraid of missing out on preaching Sunday. I couldn’t sleep and I could not rest. I also worried that even if I felt better I would carry the bug to one of the kids at church or even one of our elderly. But once I released those concerns to God I could feel the stress melt away and I finally got some much needed rest.
May God bless you as you separate your concerns and worries. Throw those worries out the window because God cares for you.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Jehovah Rapha, You are the God that heals. I thank you for helping us through this time of illness and ask for your blessings as we continue to rest and recuperate. Help us to rely on you and cast all our worries on you. Thank you for Jesus Christ, my Savior, my Lord, my friend. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
10. Take one day at a time - Matthew 6:34
Matthew 6:34 -Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Last January, my father-in-law, Richard, had his leg amputated because of an ulcer on his foot that would not heal due to blood circulation problems caused by diabetes. While he was in the hospital the doctors, nurses, CNAs, and physical therapist all told him not to worry and to take one day at a time. Richard would just smile because he had long preached Matthew 6:34 to those in his congregation.
Sometimes we get so worried about the future and how to deal with our problems down the road. We worry about how we will pay this bill before it is due or we worry about how our children will turn out or we get anxious about where the money will come from for college tuition and etc., etc., and so on. Those are all genuine concerns but we if we get so worried about all that we are distracted from trusting in God and doing his will.
His will is the key to all this. So often we are so overwhelmed with our burdens and concerns down the road that we forget to ask God his will and for his blessings. God knows the big picture. He has the answer to your problems. He also has big pockets than you and he knows where the money will come from if we are living according to his will.
The point, of course, is not to worry at all. Don’t get caught up in worldly concerns but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. In doing so you will be able to determine and respond to God’s perfect will (Romans 12:2).
One year, and three surgeries later, Richard is doing fine. He is walking on a prothesis with a walker. He just started driving again. He is leaning how to go up and down stairs with a cane. We pray that he will soon be able to walk without any assistance but we keep reminding ourselves to take one day at a time and to bath that moment in prayer seeking God’s will and way.
May God bless you today as you take it a day at a time. May you receive a blessing by seeking his will and way. Trust in Him for all your tomorrow needs and live for him day by day.
PRAYER THOUGHT: You, Father God, hold the future in your hands. You own the cattle on a thousand hills. You feed and care for the birds and animals. You clothe all of nature in splendor. By your will all things come to being. Help me to trust in you and live each day, hour, minute, and second at a time. Transform my thinking so that I may understand and follow your will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
9. Pace yourself -Ephesians 5:15
Ephesians 5:15 - Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise
I have some major projects due at the first of the month. My deadline is firm and cannot be moved or changed. At one time it gave me great stress when I realized that it was the last week of the month and I had not finished them yet. But it doesn’t give me grief any longer.
I learned if I did a few minutes of work on it a couple times a week I would have more done by the deadline and have less stress.
I believe that this works for a lot of things. If you spread out big challenges and difficult projects over time it won’t be so hard. If your deadline is not firm you may want to avoid lumping the hard things all together. If you can whittle those down a bit at a time it won’t be so big a job.
I mentioned the other day that we are working to organize the basement and get rid of some things. At first glance it is a huge project that can overwhelm you to the point of not knowing where to start. But we have started to chip away at it a little at a time. It’s getting done with less stress and greater efficiency.
This can also be done with house cleaning. If you pick a room to do major cleaning in once a week it makes it easier to handle in little chunks. It’s a whole lot better than trying to do all your housework on the one day a week you have off.
Rick Warren said, “Time is your most precious gift, because you only have a set amount of it.” That is really true! And the more you spend that in stressful hours the less time you will have. Studies show that worry and stress can reduce your lifespan and cause a myriad of health issues.
Remember the moral or lesson of the story of the tortoise and the hare. “Slow and steady wins the race.” Take your time and pace yourself. Do it right the first time.
May the Lord bless you today as you pace yourself. Don’t forget to ask him his advise and for his wisdom. His will is the most important thing you can consider.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Heavenly Father; You could have spoke all creation into existence in one day but you did it in six. Not because you had to rest or you had to let things mature. I believe you set the example for us in pacing ourselves and giving ourselves proper rest. Thank you for your concern for our well-being. Help me to always consider your will over mine as I fix my schedule and work. In Jesus’ precious name, AMEN!
8. Allow Extra Time - Matthew 6:27
Matthew 6:27 - Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
I had a man who told me he thought Sunday morning was too stressful. “You don’t know the circus that goes on at my house,” he said. “There is such a rush to get breakfast, get everyone dressed, get in the car and get here on time.” He looked at me with genuine pain and frustration and said, “We are usually ready to kill each other and that’s not a worshipful attitude to have.”
Another woman who taught Sunday School rushed in at 10 after class time on Sunday mornings and rushed to prepare her lesson for her class. The kids in the mean time just waited and played until she was ready. She told me “We don’t have enough time for our lesson…I never get the lesson finished!” So we talked about how she could use the time a bit more frugally.
I find it funny that people can get dressed and ready for school and work without problem but when it comes to church we are unorganized and unprepared. It’s like a different schedule or attitude exist when it comes to church. I have a lot to do on Sundays but I try to allow time so I don’t get stressed. Getting to church early helps me keep things organized and prepare my heart for service. This preparation starts during the week so that I am prepared for Sunday morning. I usually make sure I have clean clothes and my shoes are polished on Saturday evening.
I asked both the lady and the man how they managed during the rest of the week. The man told me that they prepare for school the night before by making sure book bags where packed and by the door. They made sure that the kids had clean clothes the night before. The coffee maker automatically turned on at a certain time. Mom had breakfast on the table at a certain time. And they all piled into the car 10 minutes early so they could anticipate traffic and be on time. The Sunday School teacher told me a similar routine and added, “In twenty years I have never been late to work!”
So I told them that if they used the same care and logic on Sunday morning they would be less stressed and have more time to get things done. The man started organizing his family on Saturday night and from that time on they were at church early and in better form. He thanked me and told me how being prepared and leaving early reduced stress. He said they even started singing songs on the way to church to prepare their hearts for worship.
The Sunday School teacher on the other hand continued on with things as usual. She finally gave up teaching to everyone’s relief. The teacher who took her place was there early to greet her students and talk with them. She had prepared her lesson in advance so that they had plenty of time to share and learn together.
Being ready and leaving a few minutes early can reduce a lot of stress and help you focus on what is ahead rather than what was behind. May God bless you as you prepare and allow a little extra time in your schedule.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord, I want to worship you with all my heart. Forgive me when I rush and get stressed out. Forgive me for distractions that rob me of focusing on you. I pray that you will help me to be more organize and less stressed over time constraints. Thank you for Jesus who reminded me that I couldn’t add even a single hour to my life by stressing out. It is in Jesus’ name that I pray, AMEN!
7. Less is more - Philippians 4:11-12
Philippians 4:11-12 - I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
When I was on my weight loss journey we were reminded that “Less is more”. The idea was that we should eat only until we are satisfied and not until we are full. One of the instructors told me that she would get her entree at her favorite restaurant she would often have her bring a take home tray. She would then divide her food into two. She was satisfied with half an entree and she could enjoy it again for supper.
We live in a country of excess. We eat too much. We drink too much. We spend more money on entertainment that we should. We own too much stuff. And we throw away more garbage than any other country in the world.
The other day I made a run with the garbage to the “convenience center” to throw out the garbage. I watched several people throw away things that looked like they might still be useful to someone. As I watched someone throw away a computer I heard someone ask, “does that still work.” The man said that it did but that it was outdated and he got a new one. The attendant at the dump later said to me, “We have too much when we can throw all this away.”
I believe that is true. Living in a land of plenty is a blessing. But having too much can be as stressful and worrisome as not having enough. People who have too much have to worry about keeping it and maintaining it, paying taxes, and other stuff.
Sometimes we fall in the habit of not being content with what we have. We want even more: A better job, a bigger office, a larger paycheck, a nicer house, a newer car, the latest gadget, a faster computer, and more tv channels that you could watch in a lifetime. All this adds stress to our lives.
There was a fellow who bought an expensive car that he always wanted. But after having it for only a year he decided to sell it. He explained that he spent more time cleaning and maintaining it than driving it. When he took it out he worried about getting in an accident or dinging the paint job. When he went somewhere he was the one that parked in two parking spaces so no one would bang their doors or shopping carts against it. It was too much stress so he got rid of it.
We have a basement full of stuff. When I first moved here my grandson could ride his “zip board” around down there. But now you can barely walk through it. You can’t imagine the frustration that has led too. So we are going to simplify, donate, and sell some junk that we don’t need.
Jesus told us not to worry about stuff and things (Mt 6:19-34). Things of the world will all rust, break down, become outdated, fade away, get stolen, and become meaningless. We are supposed to trust God to supply what we need (not what we want). We are supposed to store our treasures in heaven… invest in spiritual, not physical things.
I am not tell you to get rid of all your junk, stuff, and things. I’m just stating that if you want to remove or reduce your stress you need to be content and trust God more. May God bless you with contentment and a thirst for spiritual treasure.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; You are my provider. I trust in you. I seek the spiritual treasures of your kingdom. Help me to be less materialistic and content with what you have given me. Thank you for the saving grace you have given me in Jesus and the hope of eternal life. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
6. Simplify and Organize Your life -Acts 17:26
Acts 17:26 -From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
If you are looking for a verse in the Bible that says you need to organize and simplify your life you probably won’t find anything. But our God is a god of order. He is the one who put the world in order. He appointed seasons and times. He even commanded that we worship in and orderly manner (1 Co 14:26-40). Paul says in these verses “God is not a God of disorder…” Since God is this way I am sure he approves of those whose lives are not disordered and too complicated.
Most of us realize that we have too much clutter and way too busy of schedules. I posted a picture with my blog yesterday and someone messaged me to ask me if that was really my desk. The answer is yes and no. Yes, my desk is almost always cluttered, and No, the mess in the picture was staged…but not by much!
Not only do I deal with clutter but like most of you, I also deal with busyness. Someone wise once asked me “do you control your schedule or does your schedule control you?” Sometimes I get so busy that I get frustrated when someone tries to give me something else to do.
The problem is doing something about it. We need to deal with the problem but often what we do is ignore the mess and keep on struggling with a full schedule and “to do” list. As I type this blog my schedule has already changed today so I just punt somethings down the road and hope I get to it later.
I believe the starting place is always prayer. I believe we should ask God to help us be orderly and to be wise about our schedule. It might not hurt to ask him to “interrupt your day” with divine inspiration.
Another key to organizing is understanding that you will probably only do about 20 percent of what you want to accomplish today. The thing to do is to make sure you pick the right things that need to be accomplished. Today, I am going to tackle this desk before I move on to the other things that need done. No matter how much I accomplish later I will still have a sense of accomplishment as I look at my clean desk.
Another key is to “Let Go”. Sometimes you have to let go of things that you haven’t used int the last two years. Sometimes you have to let go of things you are doing that aren’t productive. Sometimes you have to let go of relationships that are dragging you down. Sometimes you have to let go of the past and mementos of those times and take full advantage of the moment you are in.
I hope this has been a little helpful to you. Now clean your desk and seize the day! May God bless you as you put his order to your life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; You made life out of the chaos of a void and formless earth. You ordered the the galaxies and set the times and the seasons. You ordered the lives of people by the beating of the drum in our chest. You are God of order. Help me to put my life in order and simplify. Give me wisdom to know and do the right things. Give me peace and rest from my burdens. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
5. Delegate tasks to capable others - Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 - Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
I have to admit that time has mellowed me a bit. I used to think I had to do everything because no one else could do it or would do it the way I wanted it done. That’s just stupid. It also robs me of an opportunity to disciple someone to take my place in the future. When I get help with various things it frees me up to do other things that God has called me to do.
My wife reminds me that I still struggle with this problem. Either I don’t ask for help or I get frustrated when no one volunteers. It is adds to my stress when I try to do it all myself. She also reminds me that I am robbing someone of an opportunity to be blessed when I don’t ask for help.
The truth of the matter is that you have to work together. When the kids were young we used to have chore charts for them so they could learn responsibility and help the family out. Recently we have started doing this again because it helps the family to work as a team.
Delegating responsibility not only takes the load off of you and reduces stress but it also helps build up interpersonal relations. In a world of tv, computers, smartphones, and social media building proper working relationships can be hard. In the past few weeks I have washed, dried, and put away a lot of dishes on my own. But last night I really enjoyed talking with my wife as she washed and I dried and put away.
The joy of serving in the church is also multiplied when others are working together. A church is not a building but a group of believers who have the common cord of Jesus binding them together. The work is shared so that we can make disciples, baptize new converts, teach them the ways of faith, and work along side them so they can learn to do the things that we are doing. Jesus commissioned us to do this in Matthew 28:18-20 and all apostles shared this concept of discipleship all through the New Testament.
The problem is that no one is going to jump in and do things on their own. You will have to humble yourself and ask for help. You won’t get anywhere fussing, complaining, or trying to guilt someone into helping you. You must humbly let your request be known.
May God bless you today as you team tackle the things that need done in your life. Don’t be afraid to ask for some help. It is beneficial to you and the one who you ask.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy God; You saw Adam was alone and made for him a help-mate. You saw the job of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ and you gathered a church to work together. I ask that you help me to delegate some of the responsibilities that I have so that we can accomplish great things together in your name. I pray this by the authority of Jesus Christ, AMEN!
Learn To Say “NO” - Psalm 32:8
Psalm 32:8 - Psalm 32:8 -I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
I have to be careful in the way I say this. I don’t want you to just start dropping out of things or give you an excuse to say “no” to everyone and everything. God calls us to answer “yes” to him and to trust him. SO I am leery of giving you a license to say “no”.
I remember having a meeting one time where we were organizing a few ministry teams. One woman in attendance keep volunteering to be on all the teams. I told her that she could only pick one that she was really passionate about. She replied, “I am passionate about ALL of the work in God’s kingdom.” I did allow her to be on a couple of the teams but I told her that I didn’t want her to have to compromise the quality of her work for the quantity of time she would be putting in.
There are many of us like this woman. We are passionate about what we do, especially in the kingdom of Christ. We have a tendency to want to jump in and take both reigns and ride that horse into a frothy wretched mess. Sometimes we take on way too much and cause ourselves grief, anxiety, and pain. We can’t do it all to the best of our abilities and so we end up doing everything part way.
I believe that we should “count the cost”. Sometimes that means asking others their opinion before we jump in or seeking advise and counsel from trusted people in our lives. Sometimes we really need to bath things in prayer and give some time to make the right decision. And sometimes the answer has to be “no”.
At the beginning of the school year I volunteered to help out with the Bible club after school. It was only one day a week and I really loved the work, the people, and the kids. I really got into the mission lessons and did whatever I could. But life threw us a curve ball when my Father-in-law had a stroke and my daughter moved in with us for a while. My schedule changed. At first I tried to manage and keep on doing the same things. But I wasn’t doing anything to the best of my ability. So I reluctantly gave up helping out with the Bible club. My attention is needed at home for the moment. And with God’s help I can get back to helping out soon.
It is okay to say “no” to projects and programs that won't fit into your time schedule, add too much stress, or keep you from doing your best.
One of the reasons I take so much on is that I sometimes think that if I don’t do it than it won’t get done. The truth is that God often raises up people to do the work. In fact, sometimes he ask us to train someone to do the job we were doing… I must decrease so others can increase.
May God bless you as you seek his counsel in daily activities. May your passion never wane as you seek to follow his will for your life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; You are the wise counselor and advisor. Wisdom flows from your throne above. Help me to use my time and energy wisely and the the best of my ability. Keep me save in your arms and help me to trust in you always. Thank you for Jesus and the gift of life and peace. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
3. Get up on time - Proverbs 6:9-11
Proverbs 6:9-11 - How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.
There is an old saying that my mother used to tell me as a teenager, ”The early bird gets the worm.” This was usually prompted by the 100th time she had to come in to tell me to get out of bed. I would sarcastically say, “But who, besides birds, wants worm?”
These days the screeching sound of the snooze alarm is enough to “wake the dead” but you just keep on hitting that button. Then you wake up, suddenly realizing that you don’t have much time, so you panic to get a shower, shave, fix your hair, drink a scalding cup of coffee, and rush out to the car only to realize the battery is dead and you can’t find the window scraper to clear off the impossibly deep layer of frost. You finally get it started and back down the drive as your coffee falls off the top of the car. You get to work only to realize your briefcase is still at home. The rest of the day seems like a maddening attempt to catch up. No wonder you are stressed.
Get up on time so you can start the day unrushed. My house now has two grandchildren and four grown adults tying to use one bathroom and keep our sanity. But I have rediscovered that if I get up earlier than everyone else I can get some things done in my office while it is nice and quiet in the house. I also use the time to do my Bible reading, devotions, and prayer before the distractions start. When you are not in a rush when you start the day the rest of the day seems more relaxed.
One of the reasons that I started this blog on reducing and removing stress is for me. I need the lessons on trusting God and relaxing as much as you do. I am not an expert giving advise and sending you a bill. No, I am a fellow traveller on the road of life who is trying to avoid a few potholes and ruts. Perhaps we can learn together.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy (Psalm 65:8). May God bless you as you begin to get up early to avoid the rush.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord Eternal; I praise you in the morning, especially this morning. You give me the rest I need through the night. You greet me early when I rise. You open my eyes to the truth and your ways. I praise your for your love and mercy. I ask that you forgive me of my sins and my faithlessness. Help me to trust you more each day. Thank you for Jesus and for taking away my iniquity. In the name of Jesus, AMEN!
2. Go to bed on time - Psalm 3:5-6
Psalm 3:5-6 - I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.
One of the hardest things to do when you are stressed is to go to bed on time. Some people may actually say, “What time is ‘on-time’”. We get so busy we tend to stay up until everything is done. We may play video games or stay up late watching some movie just because we feel we need some time to relax and unwind. But the truth is that going to bed early is actually better at relieving stress than staying up watching “the bloob tube” as my father used to call it.
You will not find the saying, “Early to bed, early to rise, makes the men healthy, wealthy and wise” in the Bible. That quote can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin who also said, “The early morning has gold in its mouth.” Although you may not find wealth in going to bed and getting up early doctors have found that those who get a good night of sleep are healthier and their level of stress is lower.
God created rest. God rested on the seventh day after creating the world. It wasn’t because he need rest but he did it for us. He created us as beings who need sleep and a break from labor. In fact, “Sabbath” means rest. He instituted a day of rest from labor one day a week. He created the night so we could sleep and be refreshed for the next day of labor.
The psalmist, David, wrote a beautiful song about how even when his enemies are rising up against him he can sleep well at night. He can do so because he trust in God to keep watch over him. If you want to reduce or even remove your stress than go to bed early and trust God with the problems you have.
Jesus said, “Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden for I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30). Christ wants us to have rest; rest from our labors, sin, temptations, stress, anxiety, and all kinds of burdens. The application to us for this is both physical and spiritual. You can find rest in our God!
May God bless you as you sleep well in the comfort of his arms. Trust him with the things you have put before him in prayer. Find your rest in Him.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, I praise you for you created rest just for us and you set the example by resting on the seventh day. I know that there are times that I do not go to bed “on-time” and get enough rest. Help me to trust in you. Help me to relax and let you handle my troubles. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for taking away my sin. It is in the name of Jesus that I pray, AMEN!
1. Pray - Philippians 4:6
Philippians 4:6 -Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
I know that this idea may seem obvious but when you are drowning in the storms of life sometimes prayer is the last thing that comes to mind. We may know and acknowledge God in our times of trouble but remembering to lay it all out on the table to him can be difficult.
We may think, God knows the trouble that I am going through so why doesn’t he do something about it? But we need to have a broken and contrite spirit. There is something humbling about calling out from the waves, “Lord, help me”. When we humble ourselves before God and submissively ask him for help he will lift us out of the ways (I Peter 5:6-7; Matthew 14:22-34).
Worse than not praying is not even knowing what to say. Sometimes the hurt is so deep that we can’t even express it with words. Sometimes our heart just moans and groans.
I was going through a really tough time in life when a friend came to me. Instead of praying for me he said that he was going to pray with me. He asked me to start. I could barely get the words, “Dear God,” out of my mouth before my heart literally threw up all the emotions that were bottled up inside. I cried and cried and could not say even one intelligible word. My friend put his arm around me and we cried together. If only Job’s friends had been as compassionate as this friend.
The Bible says there will be times like this. That is one of the blessings of having God’s holy spirit indwelling in the lives of Christians. Romans 8:26-27 says, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.”
And some times what is worse than not knowing what to say is trusting God to handle our problems. Oh, we know that he can do it but his timing and his way of doing it might not match how we want it done! We might hand over our problems to him but when he doesn’t act quickly we take our problems back.
I must admit that this can be my worse cause of stress. I might as well say, “God remove all my stress and do it right now.” But God does not always work that way. God works for my blessing and benefit when it fits into the bigger picture of the kingdom. Sometimes I have to learn a valuable lesson and sometimes I have to learn to bear the weight. But in either case I have to trust God who sometimes will say, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:1-10).
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord, You are wise and all knowing. You know what is best for me. Help me to humble myself before you and ask for help. When I don’t know what to say hear the Holy Spirit speak on my behalf. And help me to trust you in all circumstances. Help me to rest in your grace and grace alone. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
28. Share Your Testimony of How Reading the Bible has helped you - Psalms 119:175
Psalm 119:175 - Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me.
When you first start your daily Bible reading program you may discover that it is a burden and a chore to remind yourself to do. But as time goes by it becomes easier and more rewarding. You find that you really missed it when a day goes by where you didn’t have time to get to it. You will also find more and more hidden treasures within the word. Your hunger and thirst for God’s word becomes very powerful in your life.
Share your testimony of how reading the Bible daily has helped you. Take the time and share with others what you have discovered in this Bible journey. Encourage and challenge them to read too. For those who don’t have a Bible you may wish to give them a copy of their own so they can try it.
When people begin to see how your life has changed because of God’s word working in your life they will be challenged. God’s word does not return void. It will accomplish God’s desired result in your life if you are a willing vessel.
Your testimony is key in helping others find the truth of God. May God bless you as your share his word with those around you.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy Father; I thank you for your word in my life. I pray that you will help me to have the courage to share your word with those around me. I pray that the seed that I plant will be in fertile soil that will produce a crop of 30, 60, and 100 fold! In Jesus’ name. AMEN!
27. Get Puzzled? - Psalm 119:169
Psalm 119:169 - May my cry come before you, Lord; give me understanding according to your word.
Most people read the Bible and hope not to be puzzled. They long for understanding so they can apply the words of life to their lives. But I’m not talking about be perplexed by the word. I’m talking about challenging your learning and understanding with a Bible puzzle.
Sometimes it is fun to challenge yourself with a good old fashioned Bible crossword puzzle. I like to do word searches and quizzes. It gets you out of your routine and challenges your mind.
The great thing about the internet and smartphones is that you can find many websites where you can get Bible games, Bible puzzle apps, or print off crossword puzzles and word searches. You can usually find some that go along with your Bible reading too.
Bible puzzles can be a great way to check what your learning and have a little fun too. May God bless you today as you get puzzled!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord, I know you like to have fun. You have a sense of humor. I know this because you created us in your image and because there are some funny sayings in your word. So today, help me to lighten up and enjoy the work of your hands. Help me to enjoy myself as I study your word. Thank you for Jesus in whose name I pray. AMEN!
26. KING ME! - Psalm 10:16
Psalm 10:16 - The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.
Whenever I played checkers with my youngest child when he got his checker across the board they would say, "King Me", in an British accent. Although it has been years since Michael and I played checkers it tickled me so and cast a lasting impression.
The other day I was reading a scripture text that kept using various words like Lord, master, and Christ. I read it though the first time and didn't get much out of it. So I tried something different. I heard the words "King me" and so that is what I did. Every time the word lord, master, Christ, or Messiah was used I substituted the word "King."
I was amazed at how much more my eyes were opened to the depth of this passage. It really isn't much of an stretch to substitute King for Lord, Messiah, or Christ. Christ and Messiah both mean "anointed one". The Christ is the promised "anointed one" who would rule in the line of David. He is the King.
We don't live in the time of Kings and Lords. These words have become less meaningful. But when you understand the Lord as being the supreme and absolute ruler of heaven and earth it opens your eyes to how we should humble ourselves before him. It brings out a since of majesty to the reading.
Psalm 24 is a song written about the King of Glory. It ascribes to the Lord all the majesty and splendor due to God. It is very forth-telling and ushers us in to the throne scene of Revelation 4. It makes you want to give glory and honor to the ruler of all creation.
I hope you will get acquainted today to your king. May God bless you as you place the crown upon his head in your Bible reading.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord and King, You deserve glory and honor and praise. You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It is by the name of Jesus that I can come before your presence in clean white robes. I praise your name. I crown you the only King of my life. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
Be Artistic - Psalm 119:130
Psalm 119:130-The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
There was once a little boy in a kindergarten Sunday School class whose teacher asked them to draw a picture of the lesson. His little hand got busy drawing a picture of a bearded man with a robe. He carefully had doodled the stars and the moon on the man's robe. The other kids had all drawn pictures of little kids and this same bearded man. The teacher asked the boy to explain his picture. He said "I drew night on the Lord." The lesson was from James 4:8 which reads, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you..." (KJV).
It's funny that we express ourselves as kids with crayons, play dough, watercolors, and glitter but as adults we rarely even pick up a pen. When did we "outgrow" using these means to praise and glorify God? When did we get so caught up in being an adult that we can't express our relationship with God in artistic media?
Recently I started adding some picture art or "memes" to my blogs. On one occasion I was embarrassed because I violated copyright laws by posting a picture that I didn't have permission or pay the royalties. I have to plead ignorance because I didn't know that these things are also covered by copyright laws. But ignorance does not absolve guilt.
So now I make my own pictures or "memes". I don't know that they are as cute or memorable as other pictures that are floating around but if I make them I know they are legal and genuine.At first it was a labor, an inconvenience, and awkward. But now I like it. I find it is a way to express myself and my thoughts on the scripture.
My mother has joined the craze of "adult coloring". On our last visit "up north" she showed me some of the beautiful coloring books she has colored. Some of them are scripture art that are very inspiring.
There was a young student who used to offend me because he doodled on an art pad while I was teaching class. One day after class he showed me a wonderful drawing of a dragon like creature. He began to tell me how that dragon was the evil that we had been talking about in class and how it could only be destroyed with the sword of the Spirit, God's Word. I since have been less annoyed with his drawing in class because I know he got the message and was expressing himself. It was his way of taking notes.
May God bless you today as you express your heart and his word in an artistic way. May he use your art to bless the lives of others.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Creator God, You expressed yourself in creation by poetically speaking all things into existences. May your creative words speak to my heart and be expressed in the work of my hands and songs that I sing. In the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN!
Psalm 19 -
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Sometimes I spend so much time in serious Bible Study like I did yesterday. I have a hunger and a desire to see the truth that is there in each word. So I tear it apart and research it. I do a word study in the original language. I look up to see what others have gotten out of the reading. And I meditate on them.
But sometimes the heart needs to be refreshed. I need to hear the words and absorb them without disecting every little part of it. I just need to have my soul rekindled on the words before me. So today, I want you to read just to make your hearts happy. “Delight yourself in the Lord,” for “your words are sweeter to me than honey.”
May God bless you as you enjoy the sweet taste of God's word.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Oh Lord, My God; I consider your ways and your words with deep reverence. Refresh my heart and soul. Make me pant for rivers of righteousness and joy. Help me to be the man you have called me to be. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
23. Key Card Thoughts - Psalm 119:43
Psalm 119:43 - Never take your word of truth from my mouth,
for I have put my hope in your laws.
I am always going into a room for something and then staring at the walls trying to remember why I came in the room. Some might say this is because I am getting older but I used to do this even when I was young. I believe I do that because I have so much running in my mind that by the time I get to where I am going I have forgotten why I am there.
I find this happens with my Bible reading too. There are times when I read a passage and think, "Wow, that was good. I'll remember that always." And then I walk away and forget what I have read. I will forget to apply it. I will forget to talk about it with others. I will forget it until I return tomorrow and find the same truth again.
Sometimes it helps to remember things just by writing them down. That's one of the many reasons that I blog each day. But I also like to write my notes in a journal or on my computer. But one of the most effective ways for me is to write a key thought on a note card.
I sometimes write them and tape them on the mirror in the bathroom or but them on my pillow in the bedroom. Sometimes I but them in my car on the dash or steering wheel. And sometimes they end up in the endless clutter on my desk.
But that's okay. The other day I was having a particularly hard day. I was feeling sorry for myself when I ran across one of my lost cards. It reminded me that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and that God loves me. That was all I needed to put a little bounce into my step.
May God bless you today as you discover the key thoughts that he has for you in the Word of the Lord. May the word of truth never be taken from your mouth.
Prayer Thought: Dear Lord, Your word contains the hope and encouragement I need each day. Your wisdom helps me to live as you would have me to live. Your love strengths me and helps me to love others. Constantly remind me of that love. In the name of Jesus I pray, AMEN!
22. Quiz Yourself - Psalm 26:2
Psalm 26:2 - Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind
It is an admirable thing for the Psalmist to express to the Lord to “test me”. He wants God to see if there is any wicked ways hidden there because he has always tried to follow God’s way. Sometimes we need God to “test us” so that we can see which way we will go in a given situation. It’s good to put your faith to the test.
It’s admirable because I don’t know how many of us would be willing to have God probe our thoughts and motives. After all, what if he finds that secret I’ve hidden in there? What if my motives aren’t always selfless or Godly? Do I really want God to check it? Do I want him to find my faults?
Yes, I would rather that he find it now and allow me time to be reproofed and repent of it than to have that shoved to the back of the closet for him to find when I stand in judgement! When we stand before God I want to be found faultless and pure. I want him to reveal to me the things that I have hidden so that the blood of Jesus will wash away every sin.
I believe it is a good idea to “quiz ourself” daily on what we have read and if we are really applying that to our lives. Write out some hard questions and ask yourself if you are really doing that?
I walked into a classroom of middle school children who were studying for a Bible Bowl. They had been reading and studying the book of Romans. The coach thought it would be good practice to see if the children could stump me with some of the questions. I was sweating bullets at first but I actually did well at answering the questions. Suddenly one of the girls said, “Romans 12:1+2 urges us present our bodies as a living sacrifice and not be conformed to this world. Mr. Loren, Are you conforming to the world or to the image of Christ?” You could have heard a pin drop and then the rest of the students all made an “uh-h-h-h-h” noice. I had been half way ready for the content questions but the application question made me “hem and haw”.
I believe that we should quiz ourselves on content. There are several sites online that have quizzes especially designed by chapters of the Bible. They will help you to learn the content of the Bible and even quiz you on the meaning of some verses.
Application is a little harder. There are some books and websites that can help you with this too. But the real trick is addressing the situations in your life that are brought to light by the word of God and the Holy Spirit. You may need an accountability partner or a study group that isn’t afraid to use the scriptures to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness so that you can be equipped for service. Are you ready to confess and repent of your short-comings? Are you ready to dive deep into the word?
May God bless you today as conform to the image of his Son. This is the renewing of the mind that puts you in sync with the will of God.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy and Perfect God; Your ways are clear and right. I know that that I am not perfect. Please forgive me and help me to change those things that are not right in my life. Give me strength to quiz myself and have you test me and see what I need to make right. Thank you for the blood of Christ that cleanses me of all iniquity when I confess my sin to you. It is in Jesus’ name that I come to you with this petition, AMEN!
21. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day -Psalm 119:28
Psalm 119:28 - My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.
One of the biggest determent to daily Bible reading is getting discouraged when you get behind. Sometimes you miss a day, or two, because of circumstances beyond your control and then it cascades out of control until you are so far behind you just want to give up. DON'T DO IT!
Listen. We all have those days when our schedule goes out of control. Don't beat yourself up. Forgive yourself, pick up the next day, and keep moving.
You won't believe how hard this can be for me. I am a project orient person. I get really discouraged when my day doesn't go as I planned. I used to pray, "Lord, interrupt my day." But he did and it frustrated me so I don't do it as much as I should.
Just because you miss a day doesn't mean you are a failure. It happens. One of the things I tell my church members is that if you miss a day on the chart just move on and then fill in the back days when you get some extra time. Just keep moving and striving to read as often as you can.
One of the reasons I say this is that I had to catch up two days of reading last week. God interrupted my day today as I had to babysit. Believe it or not I was able to catch up my Bible reading during nap time.
I had a professor in college who used to say, "Keep on Keeping on!" I believe that is what we have to do in our daily Bible reading. May God bless you today as you find some time to read his precious word.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord and Savior; I praise you for your divine timing and your grace. Your word brings meaning and life to my soul. Help me to keep going even when I fall behind. Bless the reading of the word and help me to absorb all you have for me. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
20. Think Eternal -Isaiah 40:28
Isaiah 40:28 - Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
It’s hard to grasp the eternal when you live on the physical plain. We were created in a box that is ruled by the laws of time, space, and physics. We think linear because we have experience a 3 dimensional world that progresses in a sequential manner. It’s really hard to think outside that box when you start talking about God.
God is omnipresent. We are confined to a physical realm and body but He is not limited by time or space. We are limited in our scope and reach but He can be as big or as little as he needs to be. We get exasperated and say, “I cannot be in two places at one time,” but our God can. We age at a given rate but our God is “the Alpha and Omega,” “the Beginning and the End” and he never ages nor ever changes.
God is omniscient. He is all-knowing. His knowledge and wisdom are far beyond us. We see the small picture but he sees it all and knows it all. His power and intellect are so vast that he could create all things into existence with just his word… the vastness of space, the complexity of biology, the intricate calculations of mathematics, the physics and science needed to put creation together all reduced down to the simple words, “Let there be…”!
So how could I possibly expect anyone to “Think Eternal”? Basically I’m saying that we sometimes have to look outside of this physical box we live in so that we can have a better grasp of God’s word. By just being aware that the eternal, powerful, and spiritual nature of God revealed in His word helps us to have a better grasp on the scriptures.
Right now I am preaching a series on the second coming of Christ. I am preaching and studying in Matthew 24 and 25. There are a lot of people who take it that the whole chapter is about the second coming and most of it is. But when you are aware that the disciples really asked three questions than you see that it can change the meaning. The disciples asked when the temple was going to be destroyed, when was he coming into his kingdom, and when is the end of the age. Jesus answers all their questions but not really in sequential order. His main theme of his reply is for us to “be ready”. But some people have tried over the ages to use the clues in the Bible, numerology, and signs to predict the date of the second coming. This is foolishness as Jesus said that only the father in heaven knows he is coming. But he did tell us the sign of Noah… people will be living and doing things as usual and many will be taken unaware just as when the flood came. Be ready…don’t be caught in the flood.
We need to realize that prophecy in the Bible is often more FORTH-Telling than FORE-Telling. Often the word prophesy can just as easily be translated as preaching or sharing God’s word. A message from God can reveal future events but it is not always a foretelling of the future.
A prophesy is a message to a given people at a given time in a given situation that is either meant to give hope or to call the audience to repentance. A timeless God is revealing a message to people who are limited by our concept of time. He did not mean for us to dissect the prophetic word to come up with new doctrines, theories, and timelines of future events.
Just be aware when you are reading the Bible that God is eternal and spiritual. Be aware of our limitations as physical, created beings. God loves you and wants you to understand his word. He wants to have a relationship with him. And it is this treasure that we carry in clay jars.
May God bless you as you think outside the box and try to connect with the infinite mind of God. May you be filled with awe and wonder as you read this magnificent word.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. I am fearfully and wonderfully made by your loving hands. I have been created with a purpose and my life has meaning because that is how you made me. Your thoughts are not my thoughts for who can comprehend the mind of God? Yet you have given me your word and your spirit. You teach me day by day to understand a little more or the eternal. I set my mind and hope on being with you in the eternal one day. Thank you for Jesus in whose name I pray. AMEN!
19. Beware of Idioms - Psalm 119:34
Psalm 119:34 -Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
What is an idiom? An idiom is a phrase that has a different meaning based on the usage than what the individual words actually mean. When one says, “It’s raining cats and dogs” they do not mean that dogs and cats are falling out of the sky. They mean that it is raining really hard.
We are all aware of what some idioms means in the modern English language. If I say, “That’s a hot potato,” most of us would know that I am referring to a some topic of conversation that may seem okay but that could be a disputed topic that could potentially burn you. “A penny for your thoughts” means that I would like to know what you are thinking. “Back to the drawing board” means I have to start all over again from the very beginning. “The ball is in your court” means that the next move, decision, or discussion is up to you. “Crying over spilt milk” means that you are complaining about loses or mistakes that were made in the past that cannot be rectified. We all use idioms in our everyday conversations.
But idioms can be based on culture, location, era, and language. They can have a different meaning to different people. They can lose their meaning over time or in translation.
Often times Jesus spoke in words that where hard to understand. He did this to sort out the true followers from the ones who just wanted “a dinner and a show” (idiom). He told his disciples that he spoke in parables so that the hearer would be “ever hearing but never understanding” (idiom). That may lead some to believe that he did not want people to know what he was talking about. But what he was wanting was true followers who were seeking understanding and willing to search out the “pearl of great price” (idiom).
Jesus would use idioms like “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Everyone has ears so what does this mean. I have heard many teachers and preachers say that he is basically saying “listen up” or “pay attention” but I think it is more than this. He is actually saying to apply this to your life or “Just Do It!”(idiom)
Jesus used an idiom in Matthew 6:1-3 when he warned the followers not to “sound the trumpets” when they gave alms but to do it in secret. It means that we shouldn't let others know what or how much we are giving because that should be between you and God alone.
Again in Matthew 6, Jesus uses another Hebrew idiom “the eye is the lamp of the body”. This phrase seems out of place but it would not have been to his hearers. The clear eye represents generosity where the evil eye represents selfishness and stinginess. This fits in clearly with this section on storing up your treasures in heaven.
The difference between the hearer of the word and the doer of the word is that the hear hears and thinks that was a good lesson. The doer of the word will search out understanding and apply the word to their life. Jesus spoke in parables and idioms to sort out the hearers from the doers.
May God bless you today as you seek to apply His word to your life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Master, You have the keys to eternal life with you. I desire to follow you. I ask for clarity in reading your word. Help me to understand it. Help me apply it to my life. Remove any sin that keeps me from following you. Oh Lord, thank your for Jesus, your indwelling spirit, and your eternal word. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
18. Weep - James 4:8-10
James 4:8-10 - Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
Like a lot of men, I put up a wall to defend my emotions. I try not to talk about my feelings. You can't change the past and the future is still ahead. So I try to live in a peaceful spot somewhere between my hypothalamus, hippocampus and the amygdala. Besides, "Big boys don't cry."
But every now and again there is a crack in my wall and the lymphatic goo oozes out and I feel my cheeks burn as the warm, salty drops of liquid flow down. (Usually this happens when I am watching the Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer... It's sad... no reindeer games...just a misfit. And Santa was rather cruel.)
It’s OK to lament, weep, cry, sob, snivel, wail, moan, groan, grieve, or even mewl. It is not unmanly to show emotions. In fact, it is healthy and appropriate for us to show emotion in given situations. You would expect a man to cry at the funeral of his mother. You would expect him to cheer and laugh when his favorite team intercepts the ball and runs 60 yards for a touchdown. And you would expect a man to turn to putty when he first holds his newborn child after the birth.
It's appropriate to show emotion when you read the word of God too. When the Bible is praising the Lord we are filled with joy and awe. But the Word of God is also filled with injustice, gloom, sorrow, defeat, war, murder, and other stuff that can be hard to read. It’s okay to cry and lament over the condition of the world, the sins of people, the wrath of God, and those who are outside of Christ. It’s even okay to cry over our own circumstances and sinfulness.
Lamenting serves a purpose in the scripture. It shows our helplessness and drives us to cry in repentance to God for forgiveness and help. It helps us to see the need for God. It clears our vision to the mission and purpose that resulted in the death of Jesus Christ. It helps us to embrace the hope that comes from his resurrection and being with him someday in heaven. Yes, weeping over the Scriptures is not only important... it is essential.
If you want a good example of this read 2 Samuel 12 and Psalm 51. David was judged and found guilty of sin. He wept and would not eat as he prayed and called out to God. He wrote of his experience, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me."
May God bless you my friends as you experience the joy and the sorrow that is contained in God's word.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Oh Holy God; You are most excellent and your word is perfect and pure. Break down my walls that I have built with my pride. Humble me with your word and help me see the errors of my ways. Forgive me of my iniquity. I cry that you will restore me and put me on the path of righteousness. Thank you for Jesus, the sacrifice for my sin. It is because of his death and resurrection the I can come to you. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
17. Pray the Bible - Psalm 119:5
Psalm 119:5 -Oh, that my ways were steadfast
in obeying your decrees!
A Bible college professor once asked the class if they were praying God's Word. Most of the students answered yes without really understanding what he meant. So he opened the Bible and began praying:
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.
Lord, Help this class and myself to be counted among those who delight in your law and meditate on it day and night. Open our eyes that we may see the wonderful things in you word.
In Jesus' Name,
It was simple, beautiful and united the hearts of student and professor in God's word. I can't think of a better way to read and pray at the same time.
Most of the Psalms are prayers to God and are easy to pray. But almost any section of the Bible can be prayed to God. Some books may take a little more ingenuity. The key to praying scripture is to let the Holy Spirit lead you.
Yesterday my reading was from Job and one section in particular stood out to me. So I prayed that section to God asking him to test my heart and look for the hidden secrets there. It was very revealing and I must admit I had some things I needed to confess and repent. But afterwards I was more secure in my relationship and walk with the Lord.
May God bless you today as you lift the Holy Word up in prayer to God. May his word grow in your life and build you up in your walk with him.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, Thank you for your word. Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are those who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart. Help me to be blameless and to keep your word with all my heart. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN!
16. Insert Yourself - Psalm 119:59
Psalm 119:59 - I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
I guess I am a bit of a sci-fi geek. I watched Star Trek (TOS) when I was a kid. I went to the first Star Wars movie in the theater and over the course of the year took 4 different dates to go see it (Now you know why none of them stuck around)! Currently I am streaming episodes of The Expanse on my iPod. Yes, I guess I am a sci-fi geek.
One of the things I like about sci-fi is that I can easily insert myself into the show or book that I am reading. It makes the action more intense and makes it real for me.
Over the years I have learned to do that with the Bible too. When I put myself on the battlefield with Joshua or in the courts of Pharaoh with Moses the action is more intense, I feel what they must have felt, and the message and application are easy for me to understand and apply.
Tuesday's Bible reading reading was in the book of Judges. I was supposed to end in chapter 11. Before I knew it I was reading chapter 16! Who can stop when Sampson is tying the tails of foxes together with torches and burning out the Philistines!
This technique not only works for the action but also the other parts too. Some passages bring new meaning when you insert yourself. Try substituting the word “me” or your name in for you or the name of another character. Example: “For God so loved me that he gave his one and only Son for me, that if I believe in him I shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Read that a couple of times and suddenly you are having an a-ha moment.
I hope you will experiment with inserting yourself into God's word from time to time. May God bless you as you read and grow in his word today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; Thank you for the awesome stories and lessons that you have in your word for me. I know these stories were written to people in another place and time about specific things they were dealing with. But I also know that your word, like you, is eternal and timeless. It breathes new life into me today just as it did to others years ago. Thank you for your word that teaches me about Jesus. Thank you for saving my soul through his death and resurrection. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN!
15. Don’t be afraid to write or highlight in your Bible -Psalm 119:32
Psalm 119:32 - I run in the path of your commands,
for you have broadened my understanding.
When we were little children in Sunday School class we were taught to respect God's word. Our little hands patted the Bible as our Sunday School teachers taught us not to throw it, leave it on the floor, color in it, or tear the pages. Then we sang "The B-I-B-L-E" and colored a picture of the Bible.
When we were in Sunday School class as elementary children we were taught about the divisions of the Bible. We memorized the books of the Bible and were taught how to use the book. We were never to write in it but to make notes in notebook. We colored book marks to use in finding verses in our Bible. Respecting the good book meant that we weren't supposed to write in the Bible.
As a pre-teen I was taught how to do sword drills and to use the Bible to defend myself against the evil one. As a young teenager I was taught how to defend my faith using the word. As a high school student I was taught how to have devotions using God's word. Respecting the good book meant that we weren't supposed to write in the Bible no matter what.
One day I was astonished when a preacher asked me to look up a passage in his Bible. When I opened the word it was highlighted in various colors. He had written notes in the margins and had used tabs to mark certain areas that he used often. I stood there gazing into this book... torn between what I had been told and what I was seeing in the preacher's Bible. He used that moment to teach me that it was okay. The Bible is a tool to use to grow in our faith and to share with others. Yes, we treat it with respect as God's Holy Word but that doesn't mean we cannot mark in it passages that are meaningful for our walk in faith.
Fearest not! God will not smite thee for writing notes, using tabs, or highlighting key passages and verses. If you still have a fear of writing or highlighting you can use removable sticky note tabs and highlighting strips that you can find in the office supply section of your local department store. The important part of the having a Bible is using it... not being afraid of it or God. A healthy respect of the word is important but we don't want to be so afraid that we never pick it up and use it.
My preacher said, "I would see a tattered old Bible with notes and highlights that has helped a person grow in faith than to see a pristine Bible sitting on a shelf covered in dust."
May God bless you today as you pick up his word and use it to help you grow mature in your faith in Him.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Oh Holy God Almighty; I praise you for your wisdom written in Bible. I want to use it everyday. Help me to use your word to help me grow in faith and share the good news message of Jesus Christ with others. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
14. Sing the Bible - Psalm 119:54
Psalm 119:54 -Your decrees are the theme of my song, wherever I lodge.
When I read Psalm 119:54 I can't help think of the old Disney classic of Snow White. There are two songs that are stuck in my mind: "Whistle While You" Work and "Hi Ho". If I was one of the seven dwarfs I would probably want to sing through the day too.
When I was young I needed some help keeping memory verses in my head. I had a teacher at church that taught us memory verses by singing them to common music like "Mary Had A Little Lamb" or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." As a teen I learned a lot of praise songs were actually Psalms or other verses put to music. Music really does help us remember memory verses as well as help us remember and meditate on what we have read.
The Psalmist also said, "Sing a new song unto the Lord". I believe that God loves to hear us sing. He especially appreciates it when our love for him is so great that we spontaneously break out in a song that is just for him.
There are many ways for you to sing the Bible. You can pick a praise song, hymn, or worship song and sing it along with your Bible reading. You could pick a tune and actually sing the Bible to that tune. You could just make up a tune and instead of reading just sing it. You can also pick out a key verse and sing it to your own tune...unique and original.
May God bless you today as you sing a new song unto him. May he continue to fill your heart with his word and his song.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord; You have put a song in my heart when I accepted Jesus as my savior. My heart rings with the melody of your Holy Word. Help me to open my mouth and let that song out loud and strong. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
13. Take notes while reading - Psalm 119:7
Psalm 119:7 -I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.
When I went to college the first time I approached it like high school. I set close to the back and was easily distracted. Needless to say it didn't take long for me to figure I wasn't getting much out class. I couldn't recall much at all when it came to quizzes and test. So I dropped out.
During my next attempt I set up close to the front. I took a lot of notes and asked a lot of questions. When test time came I found that it was easy to pass. Not only did I get the grade but I also retained much information that I still recall today.
In our Bible study and reading we often get out of it what we put into it. I have a notebook which I keep nearby to write down words or things that stick out or don't quite make sense. After my reading I will try to investigate what those thing are about. If I don't find answers in my books or on the internet than I will ask my friends and colleagues in the ministry. You would be surprised the great discussions that often sparks.
You might want to get a spiral notebook of your own. Write down any questions that you may have to asked your preacher or teacher or to look up later. Write down any meaningful verses to you and meditate on them. Write down how this passage applies to you.
May God bless you as you praise him with an upright heart and learn what his holy word has for you.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy God; Your word is better than costly than gold, more precious than silver, better than anything else in this world. It is like a multi-faceted diamond that glitters and brings light and life to my soul. I praise you for your holy word. I ask that you help me to continue to study and absorb the truth held in it's pages. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
12. Make a Bible Timeline -Psalm 119:18
Psalm 119:18 -Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
It might surprise some people who are attempting to read the Bible that it is not in chronological order. It does not read like a novel. It is more like a library or collection of books written by many different people to various audiences in specific times. To read the Bible for the first time from cover-to-cover can be confusing.
That is one reason that I try to get people to read the introduction. That way they have an idea of who wrote it, to whom it is written, when it was written, and why it was written. That gives deeper meaning and understanding to the word.
One of the tools I use when I am reading the book is a Bible timeline. It helps me see how God's word has consistently played down through the ages. You can find many Bible timelines already written and available on-line or at a Bible bookstore.
Over the years I have written several of my own. I have not only included the Biblical events but also historical events that coincide with the writing of the book. I keep one on my computer now but when I first started I used a spiral bound notebook.
This Christmas as I was working with the children in the youth group there were many questions about the timing of the writing of the Bible. So the next time we met I showed them my Bible timeline as well as one that I had bought at the bookstore. We spent most of that session just looking at the timeline. Many of the kids were amazed that Jesus was not actually born at 0AD!
May God bless you today as you explore and discover the truth that he has for you on each page. I hope you will enjoy making or exploring a Bible timeline.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Eternal God. You are the Alpha and Omega, you created time in the very beginning of man. I praise you for never changing and always being the rock on which I can stand. Thank you for your timeless word. Help me to understand what you have for me in the Bible. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
11. Read the Introduction of the Bible book you are studying. Psalm 119:16
Psalm 119:16 -I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
I once had a 5th grade teacher that encouraged us to read the introductions of the books she had us read as well as go over the table of content. When the test time came around most of us were prepared for the content of the book. But we were shocked that several of the questions came from the introduction and table of contents. Many of us had not read it and it dramatically changed our grade.
There is a lot of good information in the introduction. Some Bible don't have an introduction but the information is available on line or in a Bible dictionary or handbook. The introduction tells who we believe is the author God used to write down his word. It also introduces the audience the work addresses. There is often information on approximately when the book was written too. But the man information is the purpose for which the author intended and what he hoped to accomplish.
Yes, you can read the book without reading the introduction but why not add a little color and flavor to the words you are about to digest? Taking a few minutes more to read the introduction will help you have a better understanding of the message God has for you.
If you are interested there is a whole series of video introductions/overviews of the book you are reading at https://thebibleproject.com. They also have downloadable charts of the overview. These videos are very informative and fun to watch for elementary children to adults.
May God bless you today as you dive deep into his message for you. I pray that you will read the intro before the big test!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Oh Holy God, How you have worked throughout the ages in the hearts of men to bring this message to us. Your spirit has inspired men to write it down. Your love has protected the word throughout countless attempts to wipe it out. Thank you for giving your word to me. It has changed my life and my heart. Thank you for Jesus in whose name I pray, AMEN!
-Loren H. Lung
10. Meditate On The Word - Psalm 119:97
Psalm 119:97 - Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long.
Have you ever had something on your mind all day long? I'm not talking about your worries or anxieties. I'm not even talking about some guy or gal that you are head over heals over. I'm talking about some idea or concept that you focus on or contemplate for a period of time.
Bible Study is step process: Reading the Bible is the first step. That is where you explore the truth God has revealed. Meditating on God's Word for your life is the second step. It contains a discovery of that truth in how it relates to your life with Jesus. Application is the third step. That is where we formulate a plan and put in into action.
Meditation is thinking deep thoughts, focusing, reflecting, giving some consideration, to ponder, to muse, to deliberate, ti ruminate, chew the cud, brood, mull something over, and contemplate. Now we're talking. Meditating on God's word is like letting coffee brew on the back burner all day long until it is strong and eye-opening.
The other day I read from Matthew 1:18-25. These verse share about Joseph's dream that he had when he was considering sending Mary away and secretly divorcing her. Gabriel appears in a dream to him and suddenly everything is okay. Why? Why did Gabriel come to him in a dream when he appeared to Zachariah and Mary in person?
That was what I pondered on the rest of the day. I have a lot of dreams, some pretty weird ones too. I don't recall any dream making a difference in a decision I had to make. Most dreams fade quickly too.
The answer came to me later in the day. The key to this passage is verse 19 where it says that he "was faithful to the law." You see, Joseph was raised to know his lineage, heritage, and the law. He probably understood that he was named after the Joseph in Genesis. Both of them also had a father named Jacob. Joseph from the Old Testament was a dreamer and the interpreter of dreams. When Gabriel appeared in a dream to Joseph it was a confirmation to Joseph that God was in the whole thing from beginning to end. And as always, Joseph responded to God with obedience.
The thrill of having a piece of the puzzle revealed to me was thrilling. I hope that you too will find it exciting to meditate on your Bible reading. May God bless you as you meditate on his word today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord; Thank you for your word and the guiding of your Spirit. I praise you for providing for all my physical and spiritual needs. I want to meditate on your word always. In Jesus' Name, AMEN!
9. Use a different translation from time to time - Psalm 119:15
Psalm 119:15 - I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
I know what some of you are thinking. Some of you have your favorite translation and you will only read from it.
I have heard all the arguments about political and religious influences that change the words of the Bible. I have even had books given to me on why a certain version is the only true Bible. I have even heard the conspiracy theory about atheist time travelers who keep going back in time to change the words of one particular version. But I am not a fool. I understand these influences and take them into account when I read.
There was even a time when I went to visit a church. I was welcomed warmly by several people including one man who put at his huge paw of a hand and said, "Welcome brother." I shook his hand and we exchanged pleasantries. Then he asked the question, "Brother, what version of the Bible do you use?" No stoner did the words get out of my mouth then he changed demeanor completely. He turned and walked away. Another fellow standing near me said, "Don't worry about him. He can be a little dogmatic at times."
The truth is that I don't really have a favorite version of the Bible. I often used the NIV, NASB, or the KJV. I will often switch up between versions to help give me a clearer idea of what the passage means. Sometimes I even use a parallel Bible to compare the differences.
I also use very easy to read translation like the Contemporary English Bible, the Easy-to-Read Bible, or the Simple English Bible at times. You will be surprised how sometimes this gives some clarity on the meaning of the verse.
Honestly, I don't see the harm. I have sometimes seen more harm done from those who dogmatically and exclusively use one version than I have from those who look at various versions. Besides, if I find a passage I want to do a word search on I use the Greek or Hebrew text.
A few years ago, Eugene Peterson came out with the Message. Some people loved the use of "street language" and simple interpretations for the passages. It's not a study Bible but it is a great way to take another glance at the word of God.
We have to remember that God's word was originally written in three different languages. The Old Testament was written primarily in Hebrew, with some passages in Aramaic. The New Testament was written primarily in Koine Greek (common or trade language). These languages, like English, have changed over time.
Don't be afraid to sample other translations form time to time to get a better picture of what God's Word for your life is. Let God's Holy Spirit lead you. May God bless you today as you explore his Word in all of it's glory.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord God Almighty, You have given us your very word and I praise you for that. Please give me discernment as I investigate your word today. Help me to understand the message and apply it to my life. I pray that each day I will live up to this gift that you have given me. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord God Almighty, You have given us your very word and I praise you for that. Please give me discernment as I investigate your word today. Help me to understand the message and apply it to my life. I pray that each day I will live up to this gift that you have given me. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
8. Read the Bible in a group, family, or with a friend - Psalm 119:14
Psalm 119:14 - I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
There once was a woman who won a cash prize. As soon as all the taxes and other legalities were done she threw a great party for all her friends. She had fine food catered from a well known chef. She served champaign even though she herself did not like it. She hired an chamber orchestra to play. And at the end of the day she gave all her friends some really nice presents and cash gifts. At the end of the month she had spent all her prize money. When a reporter asked her why she did it she said, "I wanted to share my winnings with my friends and have a party that I would remember always."
The Bible, God's Word, is the greatest literary treasure of all time. It's pages contain the wisdom and wealth beyond on measure. It contains the key to a relationship with God, abundant life, and our salvation. With a wealth so great it only makes sense to share it with the ones we love.
I have a friend who is not wealthy, nor has she ever won the lottery. But every Thursday morning her friends all come over to her house for coffee, biscuits and jam. During the week they have all read their assigned Bible reading. So they talk and laugh and visit for a while. And they read some of the key verse from their Bible readings. Then they talk casually about how the Word applies to them and they pray together. You might say it is kind of a Holy Book Club. My friend believes in sharing the wealth she has with others.
The other day a man was telling me how a few of his co-workers got together before work to read God's word together. He told how quickly the time goes. He can't wait to get back to the Word tomorrow.
I must admit that some of my favorite times of church and Bible study is the reading of God's word together. There is something powerful and unifying reading the word of God together.
You might want to ask your family or friends if they would like to get together for a reading of God's Word. Then take a few moments to share thoughts and understanding. Use the rest of the day to encourage and hold each other accountable to God's word.
May God bless you today as your share in the treasure that is God's Holy Bible.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father in Heaven, God we praise you for your word and the testimony of those who have shared this wealth. Please bless us as we read your holy word together and hold each other accountable. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
7. Read the Bible out loud - Psalm 119:13
Psalm 119:13 - With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
I was trying to read from the Book of Isaiah the other day. But I wasn't in a quiet place and my mind wasn't at peace. The TV was on in the other room. A seven-year-old boy with lots of energy was kicking a ball in the house (ugh). This and all the other noises of the day made it difficult to keep my mind focused on reading God's word.
It would have been easy to set the Bible aside and try again in another moment. I could have gone elsewhere where it was a bit more quiet. I could have put my headphones on and listened to the word on my computer. But instead I started the reading over from the start but this time reading aloud.
I felt like the words that I was speaking were coming from somewhere else. I was able to put my whole concentration on each word. I was uttering the very words that God had spoken through the prophet Isaiah. These words seemed to have a life of their own as I read aloud.
The ancient Greek philosophers believed that spoken words had power and took on a life of their own and so they took care how they used them. In that moment, I understood what they thought.
These words that I am speaking with my lips are the same ones that came from the mouth of God. I understood the authority of these judgements that Isaiah was pronouncing. It was a religious experience just to utter those same words in that moment.
I had just finished reading the last sentence of the reading for that day, Isaiah 28:29. It reads, "All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent." There by my desk standing quietly was the boy with too much energy. He looked at me and said, "That was good, Grandpa."
There is something special about reading God's word out loud. I love the public reading that we do in church. God uses each person's voice to utter his word anew. And it is a blessing to hear it and apply it to our lives.
May God bless you as you utter aloud the words that came from his mouth to your ears. May you to see the wonder and magnificent wisdom of his plan
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God of Wonders; how majestic and magnificent are your words. Fill me with the splendor of you word. Let you Holy Spirit show me your ways. Thank you for your plan for my salvation and for Jesus Christ who died for me. It is in his name I pray, AMEN!
6. Listen to the Bible on CD, MP3, or tape.
Exodus 24:7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”
Most of the time I read my scripture verse in a quiet room. But I have to admit that sometimes my mind gets distracted and I lose track of what I am reading. I have found that if someone else reads it and I follow along I can stay more on track.
Sometimes I get my wife to read with me but most of the time we find it hard to sit down together because of all the things we have to get done. So what do you do? You could invite the mailman in to read with you or grab somebody walking down the street but I don't recommend that very much!
The Audio Bible is readily available on CD, MP3, or cassette tape and usually is read by someone with a strong voice. Sometimes you can find a dramatize reading of the Bible that has multiple voice reading it. The Audio Bible is also available on most of the Bible websites like www.biblegateway.com (There is a little speaker icon above the reading that will bring up an audio reader).
The most effective use of the Audio Bible is following along in the version while the person reads. But sometimes circumstances don't allow for you to do so. There are days when I am on the road a lot especially when I am visiting someone in the hospital in Winston-Salem or heading down to Black Mountain to see my Mother-In-law, Myrtle. Before I leave the driveway, I pull my daily reading up on my phone and play it over the speakers of the car for all to hear. I can't follow along because I am trying to keep my eyes on the road.
I actually did my reading one time while I was waiting at the doctors office. I pulled up the Audio Bible on my Bible App (YouVersion) and put my headphones in and read along. When I was done a woman sitting near me asked what I was doing. She was totally unaware that she could pull up her Bible on her phone or that she could use the Audio Bible on it.
May God bless you today as you hear his word and answer "I will do what the Lord said; I will obey."
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, Your words are sweet to my ears. Wisdom flows from every word. I thank you for giving us the Bible. I thank you for the tools you have given us to use. May the reading of your Word prepare me for service in your kingdom. In the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, I pray, AMEN!
5. Memorize a key verse - Psalm 119:11
Psalm 119:11 - I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Now I know what your thinking, "Preacher, I just can't memorize. My old brain can seem to hold on to information the way it did when I was younger.
Our society has changed. We used to put a strong emphasis on memorizing things at school, at work, and church. But not so much anymore. We assume the information will always be there so why memorize it?
I believe there are several good reasons for memorizing and "hiding" God's Word in our hearts. Let me count off a few quickly:
1. It may not always be available. We assume that the Bible will always be here. After all, it is the bestselling book of all times and is available in various translations and versions. But that may not be the case. In many countries it is a crime to own a Bible. And with Christianity becoming less tolerated and even persecuted it is possible that it could happen right here in America.
2. God's Word never comes back void. I remember a Vietnam POW talking about his experience. He talked about how the prisoners developed a code for communicating with each other. Even though it had been years since some of them had even stepped foot in the church they shared Bible verses that they had memorized. It gave them comfort and hope in trouble.
3. It's a good example to younger Christians. How can I ask my class to memorize a scripture verse that I am even unwilling to try to "hide" in my heart? The funny thing is that the kids actually get a kick out of trying to help you learn it!
4. It will help you in your defense of the Gospel. The apostle Peter told us to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." I believe that it is important to have the word of God ready.
5. It will help you grow. It is amazing how often the Holy Spirit has brought scripture to mind to help me in situations. I remember when I was young I was about to go somewhere I shouldn't have even considered. Suddenly, "“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go" (Joshua 1:7) popped into my head. Needless to say, I did not go.
6. It will help you to get more out of your daily reading. Memorizing and understanding a key passage will unlock the truths in the rest of the passage and help you apply it to your life.
Those are just six good reasons. There are so many more. I hope that you will decide to try memorizing the word. Challenge yourself and your friends in memorizing key verses. See how many you can memorize during the week. Keep a journal of your successes. Post your memory verse on your schedule so it pops up during the day to challenge you.
May God bless you as you "hide" his word in your heart. May you unlock the truth in your reading with this key verse.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord, You have made the mind a wonderful thing. Help me to clear out the junk that I have stored there and fill it with your word. Use these passages to keep me from sinning. Help me to grow strong in your word. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
4. Make use of Tools - Proverbs 2:2
Proverbs 2:2 - So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding (KJV)
Do you understand what you are reading in the Bible? No? Why not? We live in an unprecedented age of access to God's word. That may not always be the case but for now there are many tools available to help you learn and grow in God's word.
When I went to Bible College I was required to purchase a Bible dictionary, commentaries, lexicons, interlinears, maps, etc… Over the course of my years I probably spent thousands of dollars. Some of the books I now have where given to me by friends, family, and ministers who retired or passed on. I treasure the tools I have that help me understand the word better.
A Bible dictionary is a tool you can use to look up words or verses that you are struggling to understand. It gives a brief explanation, illustrations, and sometimes other references to help you find a quick answer.
A Bible handbook is another quick reference tool in which you can look up by verse to get a simple explanation of what the verse is saying. There are many available and relatively inexpensive.
Biblical maps can help you understand where the events are taking place. That can give you some insight and history to a place. For example, I have been studying John the baptist and I was curious about "the wilderness of Judea". It is interest to see that this area is the same area Caleb requested as an inheritance from Joshua.
If you want a deeper understanding you can always pull out a the commentaries. Depending on the commentary, you will get a historical and theological understanding of how others looked at and interpreted a passage. You will also get a lot of references to other sources and other verses in the Bible.
If you like to do word studies there are concordances, lexicons, interlinears, and more. I often use these to get a clearer meaning of a word. Like in Luke 2:7 where I did a word search on manger and inn to bring deeper meaning to Jesus' birth.
You might protest that you don't have money to purchase these things. Who really does? But we live in an electronic age. Many of the tools I spent money for are now available on line and are much easier to use in computer format. The great thing is that most of these tools are available online for free (www.biblehub.com is one of my favorite online tools).
I hope that you will learn to use some of these valuable tool. It will bring a deeper understanding and appreciation for what you are reading as you search and explore the Word of God. May God bless you today with a deep understand and wisdom from his holy word, the Bible.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord, I thank you for your word and the wisdom in provides in how to live and serve you. Help me to read and understand it. Help me use the tools you have provided me for exploring your word, discovering your truth, and applying it to my life. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN!
3. Engage Your Mind - Luke 10:26
Luke 10:26 - “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
In this passage from Luke, a man asked Jesus what is the greatest commandment. Jesus turns the question back on him and said, "How do you read it?" Although how you read something can make a difference what Jesus was asking was his opinion on the matter.
But I like that question. HOW? I like it because it puts into question our whole mindset before we ever start. Wednesday I told you that we have to have our hearts in the right place. But we also have to have our mind in the right place.
HOW? Well, sometimes we have to get out all the junk. All the preconceived notions and false ideas that we have learned. We have to purge the system and start fresh. We have to let God out of the box. We have to ask God what he wants us to understand in our reading.
HOW? We also have to engage the mind. I find sometimes when I am reading that I lose track of what I am trying to read. This especially happens when I am tired or when there is a long reading that goes on and on. I find that my mind wonders. I have to shake my head and go back and read parts over again. Before I read the word I try to focus my mind.
HOW? We also have to comprehend what we are reading. Often people will try to read the Bible from cover to cover. But the Bible is not in chronological order and it doesn't read like a novel. Perhaps you might use a different reading plans to make it better. There are some chronological reading plans, sectioned reading plans, duel reading plans, and more. At BCCC we are currently using a sectioned reading plan by Michael Coley. There are a variety of reading plans which can download at http://www.Bible-Reading.com.
HOW? We can also get insight from others who read the Bible daily. They can give you some help in making it stick. During this month I will give you more hints and helpful ways to engage your mind and understand what you are reading in my blog.
Jesus congratulated the man for having the right answer. The man replied, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
The man really didn't fully understand the scope of what he read. He wanted to make sure he was doing enough to get by. Jesus tells the man the story of a good Samaritan who stops to help a Jew that had been beaten and robbed. The moral of the story was not just to love your own countrymen but to love those who hate you and put the needs of others before your own. I am sure his mind was blown....as is mine.
May God bless you as you engage your mind in God's word today. May he bless you with understanding and help you to hide his word in your heart.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord, Your word tells me that you are wise and all-knowing. It tells me that all wisdom comes from you and that if I lack understanding I should go to you. So Lord, today, as I read from the Bible, open my mind and fill it with understanding and wisdom and help me to apply it to my life. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
28 Helpful Hints for Bible Reading
2. Get rid of distractions - Psalm 46:10
Psalm 46:10 - He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
This is probably the hardest thing to do. Turn the cellphone off, put the kids down for a nap, find a quiet place, clear your mind and focus… then someone comes to the door. We all know that story.
In Psalm 46, David gives us a vision of what our lives seem like at times. The earth moving, the mountains shaking, the sea roaring, all illustrations of our life. Turmoil, stress, busyness, and constant upheaval are a good way to describe our lives at times.
But David starts his song off by saying, "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." It makes sense that we should find out what this help and strength has to say in His word. We need to spend time to read... but how?
You won’t get a perfect place or time so you have to make it in your mind. Remember that Satan does not want you reading the word. Our biggest weapon against him is the Word and the Truth. Both will be discovered in your reading. So try to find peace…even if it’s just in your own mind… before you pick up the Bible.
I have two grandchildren, a daughter, a disabled father-in-law, and my wife living with me in a small 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house. Needless to say, it is often chaotic and noisy. So I go to another room and shut the door, or I put on a set of headphones (even though I don't always turn them on) and I zone out the world while zoning in on my study.
Take a moment to "Be still and know God". Don't let the noise and chaos around you distract you from studying God's word and his will for your life.
May God bless you with a quiet and still moment to soak in his word. May God bless you today as you read, study, and grow.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father of Peace; My world can sometimes seem pretty noisy and distracting. Help me to find a still moment to rest in your word. Help me to comprehend what I am studying and apply it to my life. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN!
Get your heart into the right place. - Psalm 119:103
Psalm 119:103- How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
This year at BCCC we are using a reading program to help us read through the Bible in a year. Instead of going through the Bible from cover to cover we are using Michael Coley's program which you can download at www.Bible-Reading.com. They also have other programs available.
But the problem with forcing yourself to read God's Word is that it can become a chore. When you get behind you can get frustrated and stop all together. So before you start filling your head with knowledge you have to get your heart in the right place.
You need to have your heart set…hunger and thirst for his word and righteousness! If you want your Bible reading to be successful and profitable to your life than you need to want it.
I don't know about you but I need to eat. I just ate breakfast a few hours ago and guess what? In another hour or so my tummy will want a sandwich or something to fill it. When you have a hunger for God's word you are driven back to it time and again... not just daily but often!
How you think about God's word will determine how well you do. You need to develop a desire to read God's word, discover something new or exciting, and apply it to your life. It's as easy as one, two, three.
1. Explore the Bible as God's Word for you.
2. Discover something new or exciting in his word.
3. Apply that scripture to your life.
As you do this you will actually hunger even more for God's word.
Start today by asking God for this hunger for his word. God’s word does not return void. Ask God to give you insight and understanding to what you are reading and apply it to your life.
May God bless you today as you develop a hunger for his Word in you life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father in Heaven; You have blessed us with your Word. I praise you for the fact that it is available to me in so many forms and translations. I thank you for the many tools that you have given so that we can get more out of your word. Bless me today and help me to hunger daily for your word. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN!
31. Be careful of those who try to diminish your light - Philippians 3:17-18
Philippians 3:17-18 -Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
We are all aware of those people who are outside of the church who want to destroy the words of the Bible, the church, and every Christian person. They protest loudly, claiming their rights have been violated, claiming Christians are ignorant, and trying to silence any and all defenses of the Gospel. Jesus even warned us that there would be opposition and he said that if that hated you it is because they hate me.
But what surprises us is when we find false teachers and opposition sitting in the pew next to us. Perhaps that is why Paul calls them dogs, evildoers, and mutilators of the flesh. They don't mind your faith as long as it fits in with their faith. They often try to diminish the light in your life by either trying to be better than you, more knowledgable than you, or by doing more or better things than you do.
What makes it worse is when these people are in your family or counted amongst your friends. There are some who want you to keep your faith burning bright. For them, faith is good in small doses. You can go to church but if you try to apply it to areas of your life you might become a "Jesus Freak".
As I was teaching a class one time a friend of mine caught me by surprise. He objected strongly to a comment I made about in my study on Luke 9. I said, "Jesus is basically offering an invitation to COME AND DIE to those who are willing to follow him." He claimed I was being too fanatical. But Jesus said in verse 23, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." The funny thing is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer said and practiced the same thing during WWII and he was considered a hero of the faith.
Mediocracy is not how we are to shine the light. Jesus even said that he would rather us be hot or cold than lukewarm. Those who are lukewarm will be "spewed out".
Don't let anyone diminish your light for Jesus. Keep your eyes on the prize and press on toward the goal in Christ Jesus! May God bless you as you shine the light brightly for Jesus today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord of Light; May your glory shine in my life today. Help me to resist those who would try to diminish this light in my life. Help me to sing, praise, shout, and proclaim your name until Jesus comes again. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN!
30. Share your faith with those who show interest - 1 Peter 3:15-16
1 Peter 3:15-16 - But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
It seems funny that one would have to say that Christians are supposed to be ready to share their faith. When we shine the light of Jesus in our lives it will naturally draw some to you. They may ask, "What has made this change in your life?" Or someone one might want to know why you go to church or believe in Jesus. Sometimes their questions will be asked out of genuine curiosity and other times the questions may be mocking or even angry.
The answer may be simple in our minds. But when we try to put that answer to words it may not be as clear as we like it to be. Sometimes we try to over complicate the question by giving it a big answer when it just needs a simple one. You don't have to give a big theological exposition on creation vs. evolution or try to prove the existence of God or have 300 verses memorized and ready to nail someone to the wall. But you do need to be ready!
There was a woman who was singing a hymn while she was knitting. Her 8-year-old grandson sat at her feet playing and suddenly looked up at the woman with a quizzical expression on his face. The woman looked down with love and asked, "What's the matter, honey?"
"Why do you sing so many songs about Jesus," He inquired.
She smiled and said, "Jesus makes the joy flow from my heart. He saved me from my sins and has given me a mansion in glory."
"Oh," he said. "Then he got that puzzled look again. "Grandma, where is glory?" Grandma was glad to tell her grandson all about heaven and how Jesus has given her the hope of eternal life with her Lord.
Most people are like the young boy. They aren't looking for a deep theological answer. What they want to know is why YOU believe in Jesus. Be ready to give them an answer. That answer may raise more questions for them to ask but that's okay. Be ready to answer their questions with gentleness and with confidence in Christ.
May God bless you today as you shine the light of Jesus Christ. May he prepare your heart to give a loving answer to those who want to know more.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord; You are so complex... all powerful, all knowing, always present... amazing and beyond comprehension. I can hardly wrap my mind around all that you are. It amazes me that you love us so much. Help me to be able to give simple and straight forward answers to those who ask me about my faith. Let your Holy Spirit use my voice to share with others. Let your Spirit work in their lives that they may understand and receive the Light of the World, JESUS. It is in his name that I pray, AMEN!
29 - Sing for Jesus - Get out of your comfort zone
Psalm 96 - 1 Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples...
Shine the light of song. What a powerful way to proclaim your Lord and Savior. I was walking through a department store the other day and there were two women talking off to the side. I didn't really pay any attention to them as I was in rather a hurry to get what I came in to purchase. But suddenly one of the woman said, "Praise Jesus" and she started to sing. Her song was a little pitchy but she sang it "Loud and Proud".
I wasn't the only one stopping to notice. Some people shook their heads and went on. Others stood and listened and smiled. And there was another person who went over to join her. In just a few moments there was a small trio of women singing a spontaneous song of praise right there in the store!
I did not go over to ask what was going on. God's spirit had already told me in my heart that something beautiful had just happened. So I went on about my business with a smile on my face and renewed vigor in my step.
You may say to yourself, "I couldn't do that." Some of you might even say, "Well that lady did it for show". If you were there you would have seen the look on her face and known the only show going on was a woman who was praising here Lord!
Throughout the history of man there have always been those who have broke out in spontaneous song to the Lord. Moses did it when the entire army of Pharaoh was drown in the Red Sea. Hannah did it when she found out she was pregnant with Samuel. David danced and sang for the Lord on many occasions. Mary did it when she went to visit her cousin, Elizabeth. It was the first thing Zachariah did at the birth of his son, John, even though his voice had been gone for 9 months. Blind men, lepers, and lame men went leaping and dancing and praising God in song when they were restored at the hands of Jesus or one of the Apostles. So why not sing and dance for your Lord and shine the light on His glorious works?
Get out of your comfort zone, focus on Jesus and what he has done for you, let the Holy Spirit lead, and sing! May God bless you today as you shine the light of song and sing for Jesus.
Lyrics from "UNTITLED HYMN" by Chris Rice
Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Heavenly Father; You have sang to me the lullaby of your creation when my heart was wounded and my soul hurt too much to express words. You have dried my tears and renewed my strength when my burden was to heavy to bear. I praise you for your comfort, renewal, and blessings. Help me to "sing a new song" for you today. Give me the strength to get out of my comfort zone and sing for Jesus for it is in his name that I pray this prayer, AMEN!
Recruit more lights! - Isaiah 49:6
Isaiah 49:6-I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.
It seems odd to say. Perhaps I am stating the obvious. But the main mission of every Christian is regeneration and growth.
Matthew 28:18-20 were the last recorded words of Christ before he ascended into heaven. He told his disciples to go and make disciples, baptize and teach them. This is a regenerative command in that as they went and made disciples the command now applied to the new disciples who were to go and make disciples.
That's where you and I come in. At some point you were brought to the saving light of Jesus that gives life to all men. Now you are supposed to shine and bring others to God.
What is odd about this is that it seems simple, rather basic, like the ABC's and 123's of being a light. Just shine your light so that others will be saved and shine their light too. It is simple math. You get bigger numbers much quicker with multiplication than you do with addition. But if it is so simple why do we make it so complicated.
It is simple. If I shine the light and two people join me in shining the light we now have three people shining the light. But if those two shine and bring two people to the light we now have seven people shining the light. And if those four shine the light and bring two people to Jesus than we have 15 people shining the light... 31...63..etc. And who said we were to stop at two people?
One person with a candle flame doesn't do much to light up a room. But the more people who come to the light and shine the light the brighter the light, the bigger the flame, the greater the draw!
Don't start with the excuses: "I don't know how, I'm not ready, It's not my spiritual gift, I'm not good enough, It's not my responsibility, That's the preachers job, I'm on the committee that's enough isn't it?, etc., etc." Excuses won't work when you stand before God (Mt 7:21-23).
May God bless you, my friend, as you shine the light today. May God use you to bring others to the saving light of Jesus. Let's shine this light together.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord and Light; Your glory lights the heavens. You shine brighter than the day. I praise you for your holiness. Help me to stop making excuses and go recruit some more lights. Help us to shine in the darkness of the world. I pray for your courage and strength to stand firm and share the light to all those around me. In the name of Jesus, AMEN!
27. Volunteer an hour or so a week to a ministry or community outreach group - Matthew 25:37-40
Matthew 25:37-40 - “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"
Like most of you, I have family, job, church, and other obligations that take up my time. But I also have been convicted of the many needs I see in Ashe County. There are those who are homeless and live in tents or cars. Domestic violence, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, depression, and suicide are some of the biggest problems in our county...and nation. Not to mention the poverty and lack of employment that somehow gets missed when politicians and news medias tell us the economy is the best it's been in years.
How does one make a difference in this? By shining the light of Jesus into every corner of this county and country. As I stopped by the community food pantry the other day I noticed a few familiar faces. They were busy at work sorting clothes and stocking food items while wearing a great big smile. I met another familiar face at the store who just came from helping out at the pregnancy center and then another smiling face who works with the Gideons in prison ministry. Another familiar face appeared when I went into the nursing home. All of these familiar faces are bright stars shining in the community.
I wanted to help the children so this year I started helping out with the Good News Club at Westwood Elementary. Even though it takes a couple extra hours a week I find it rewarding and a benefit to the children, the community, and the church. By shining a light into their lives now perhaps they will have what they need to overcome the problems that come their way in the future.
There are many ways to spend your time. We all have things in our lives that are important and take time but we still find some "Me Time" to zone out. Sacrifice a couple hours a week to shine some light into the lives of those who are battling darkness and despair.
May God bless you today as you hold out the light of hope to those in your community.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Heavenly Father; I praise you for your greatness, your grace, love, and the hope that you have brought to my life. Help me to shine the light of your hope into the world. Help me see the needs around me. Give me the wisdom and courage to do what I can. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
26. Be A Barnabas! - 1 Thessalonians 5:14
1 Thessalonians 5:14 - And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
Who is Joseph of Cyprus? The name sounds vaguely familiar but does not ring a bell. Perhaps you know him best by his nickname: Barnabas (Ding Ding, the bell starts ringing). This nickname means "son of encouragement." He was the one who took Paul under his wing. He also encouraged his cousin, John Mark, who later wrote the gospel according to Mark.
So often times we can be opinionated and critical of people and programs in the church. Sometimes we let our opinions keep others from growing stronger in Christ. Sometimes the light stops shining through us because we have become so bitter or frustrated in with others.
Barnabas was patient. He knew that it takes time for a seed to germinate and grow and mature and produce fruit. He encouraged the growth in others all along the way. He put his arm around those who were discouraged. He was ready to help if someone needed help but he did not jump in and try to do it all himself. He gave admonition to those who were not right, including Paul, but he did it in a way that bore fruit in his life and the life of the one he admonished.
We need to be a Barnabas, a son or daughter of encouragement. In fact, everyone needs a Barnabas in their life. I can think of many who played the role of Barnabas in helping me to grow in faith. I treasure those who still encourage me today.
I want to be a son of encouragement. I want to shine the light of Jesus for those outside the church and for my brothers and sisters in the church. I hope you will strive to be a Barnabas too.
May God bless you today as you shine the light of encouragement and hope to others.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, I praise you, Lord, because you are water to my thirsty soul. You give me strength and encouragement. I want to thank you for all the sons of encouragement that you have sent in my life. Help me to encourage others and not be so judgmental and opinionated. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
25. Be Involved in your Church - Acts 2:46-47
Acts 2:46-47 - Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
I wonder how many people saw the title of my article today and decided to pass this one up. We don't have a whole lot of time to spare let alone consider more church involvement. We all value our privacy, personal time, and family time. These are all important but building real relationships in the church should be of top priority too.
One of the greatest aspects of the church is fellowship. No, I'm not talking about covered-dish meals in the fellowship hall or that hardy handshake you get when you come in the door. No, I'm talking about true koinonia fellowship.
The church in Jerusalem had that. People were excited to be together and share together. That excitement extended outside the circle of fellowship and drew people in. People learned more and grew more because of the relationships they developed with fellow believers both inside and outside the church. They even ate together in each other's homes.
Fellowship is a blessing to the church and to all who came in contact with the body of believers. Fellowship is a key to growth for all believers. It is an opportunity for accountability and encouragement in your walk with the Lord. It generates excitement and change in your life. Others see this change and joy and they want that too.
I believe that we all should be involved at church. I'm not saying that you need to join another committee, attend every time the door is open, and work with youth or nursery (although those are all good things!). I am encouraging you to build some special friendships with fellow Christians that will help you to grow in your faith.
May God bless you today as you shine the light of fellowship to those in and outside the church.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy Father in Heaven; Your name is holy. You are perfect. You are my God. I ask you to help me get more involved in your church and with the lives of my brothers and sisters. Help me to use my time wisely. Help me to be a light in Christian fellowship. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
24. Be proud of your church - Colossians 1:3-14
Colossians 1:3-14 - 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 God’s people— ...and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light...
I had made the trip to the hospital to visit some people. One of ladies I had planned on visiting was being attended to by the nurses so I waited in the hall. Just across the hall there was a nurses station where a nurse and a CNA were busy talking.
I try not to listen in on other people's conversation but when they said "church" my radar ears went up. They were busy comparing notes about the churches they attend. They talk about what they didn't like about the worship service and they were critical of the preacher for trying to get more people involved. They complained about the "new" praise songs and the worship leader. They also were comparing notes about this person and that. There was not one positive note given between the two.
When the nurses were through in the room I was relieved to be able to go in and visit. The room was filled with balloons, flowers, and cards which the lady in the bed filled me in on each one. Almost everything in the room had been brought to her by a member of our congregation. She also mentioned all the prayers, phone calls, and visits. She just beamed and said, "I just love our church!" I believe I popped two buttons on my shirt that day!
The contrast was amazing. Two testimonies were given that day. The difference could be seen on the faces of the ones giving that testimony. Which testimony would draw you to Christ?
It is easy to get into a habit of complaining and gripping about your church and church family. I once had an older lady come up to me at a restaurant where I was dining with a leader in the church. She gave me a discussed look and said, "I thought only old women liked to gossip and complain." We both were so embarrassed that we decided to try to hold each other accountable to say positive things from that time on.
If we are going to shine the light than we need to learn that other eyes and ears are on us. A little pride and love for our church can be a good thing. May God bless you as shine the light bright for him today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; How many times have I embarrassed myself and YOU by being critical or complaining about your church? How many times have I given people an excuse not to go to church because I grumbled about something or someone I didn’t like in the church? How many times has the light been diminished because I threw mud on the Bride of Christ? I am truly sorry and ask for your forgiveness. Hold me up and help me to say only words that bring light to you and your church. Thank you for forgiving me by the blood of Jesus Christ, In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
23. Help those who are in need- James 1:27
James 1:27-Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Religion. Religion as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods: A particular system of faith and worship.
Many people hear the word RELIGION and they feel a sort of shutter go down their spine. Our mind goes all over the place as we think of different religious experiences that we were involved in or avoid. We want to categorize these religions as either good or bad, right or wrong, genuine or cult, truth or heresy.
As a Christian, I even find myself frustrated by the word RELIGION. I believe that is because we go by a human definition and that can be confusing and scary.
The definition that James uses is not of man. It is God's. God has refined the meaning of the word. It is no longer defined by what you believe but by what you do. Religion finds it's purity in the fruit that you bear.
James goes on in chapter 2 of this letter by asking believers what good is your faith if your just listening to it without actually responding to it. He issues a challenge to compare faith, "You show me the fruit of your faith without deeds and I will show you the fruit of my faith with deeds." That's because world religion often doesn't produce much fruit at all. But religion that God accepts as pure and faultless produces a change in the person that expresses itself in bearing much fruit...30, 60, and even 100 fold!
I share this insight with you because bearing fruit is what the Christian lifestyle is all about. Religion is measured by the fruit of faith produced by stirring of love for God and compassion for others.
May God bless you this day as you shine the light and bear fruit for the Lord.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Heavenly Father; You are awesome because you fill all my needs. You have given me life, abundant life in Christ, and the gift of eternal life. I ask and pray that you will help me to see the needs of others. Help me to bear spiritual fruit in my faith. Be with those that I cannot help and meet their needs in your power and grace. In the name of Jesus I pray, AMEN!
31 Ways To Let Your Light Shine!
22. Use social media wisely - 1 Peter 2:4-10
1 Peter 2:4.10 -...But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;...
It is so easy to get on FB or one of the other social media outlets and just rant. In fact, some of the News medias even have places for you to comment under their internet stories. Every once in a while I see them use these comments on TV and I wonder what opinion even has to do with reporting the news... but then I can fall into the same trap of ranting about their ranting! It's so easy to do.
Far be it from me that I should tell you what to post and what not to post. It is your opinion and you have a right to express it. But as Christians our responsibility to Christ tempers our rights and freedoms. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our rights to the greater good of forwarding the good news message of Jesus.
Now I'm not telling you that you have to start putting Christian mims up on your wall or sharing "the verse of the day". I am simply saying that as His royal priesthood and holy nation that we should reflect his values.
I saw a post from someone the other day that was talking about her Christian lifestyle. There was a lot of profanity and statements that are counter to God's word. I know that I can be sensitive to that kind of thing. But If I see the inconsistency of the profession of faith than so do others. As Christians, we are to be in the world but not of the world.
I post on FB because I find that it is a useful tool in my personal, professional, and Christian life. My mother and I often chat on messenger in the morning over a cup of coffee. I am able to keep up with friends from high school, college, and from various place that I have lived. I have even had the opportunity to privately counsel with many people all around the world. I find that it is a very useful tool for sharing my faith. And I did it all from my humble office in West Jefferson, NC.
May God bless you today as you shine the light through your use of social media.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Oh God; You alone are worthy of my praise. You are the source of my help and my rock in times of trouble. Why do I rant? Why do I rave? Why do I want my comments to be "liked" by others. Help me to seek your approval alone in what I say and do. Help me to use every tool available to share the light of your love and salvation. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
21. Consider your entertainment - 1 Thessalonians 5:5 - WWJD
1 Thessalonians 5:5 - You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.
I believe that most Christians draw a line in the sand of where they will not step over when it comes to entertainment. One may say I will not go to any movie that is rated R. Someone else may say I will go to social events where alcohol is served but I will not participate. And another may say that they will only watch shows on TV that do not have cursing and nudity.
It is getting harder and harder to draw the lines in the sand and make those statements. Even superhero movies that once had clean-cut superheroes are now crossing the line of being dark, foul-mouthed, crossing sexual lines, and breaking the law. What once was done in secret and in the dark has now come into the light of mainstream America.
The other night I was watching a show on TV that had been really clean and good for years. I suddenly realized how they have been slipping political correctness into the show. I won't go into details but it got so bad that I turned it off. They lost a loyal viewer the other night.
I believe that our lines in the sand can be easily crossed if we are not careful. The problem is that others see us when we cross lines too. Sometimes it is our children or grandchildren. Sometimes it is friends or non-christians who are looking to see what we will do. If we cross the line than we are telling them that it is okay for them to do it too.
If we compromise on entertainment how long will it be until we are crossing God's lines in other areas. Our lines maybe subjectives but his are absolute. God's line does not change. We have a tendency to get as close to His lines without crossing over... or even seeing how far we can dip our toe across the line. But God wants us to stay far away from the line all together.
1 John 1:6 says, "If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth." We are to walk in light as children of light and sons of the day.
May you shine the light of God's purity to all around you. May God bless you today as you make the hard choices to honor God in all areas of your life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Oh God, Your ways are wonderful and pure. You are light and there is no darkness in you at all. Help me to walk in the light as you are in the light. Help me to make the right choices, not just in my entertainment choices, but in all areas of life. Thank you for your guiding spirit. Thank you for Jesus, my Savior. It is in the name of Jesus that I approach your throne in prayer, Amen!
20. Be careful what you say. Speak in ways that are right, true, honorable and trustworthy.- Ja 3:2-12; Ep 4:29
James 3:2-12 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check...
Ephesians 4:29 -Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
My father used to have several sayings that he used to use to try and still my restless tongue when I was a child. Two of those saying make me smile. The first was "Don't open your mouth before you put your brain in gear." And the second, which still makes me smile is "Don't let your brain go on parade." I always pictured my brain as a drum major leading a big band of noisy, off-key musicians.
I don't know if those really helped me or not. I guess when I was that age I talked incessantly and had no filter. My dad also would say that "I liked to hear my head rattle."
I will give my dad credit.. I don't remember him ever yelling at me to "shut up". So many people harshly raise their voice to get kids to be still. I know my Dad probably wanted to yell many times but he must have choked that down.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, said that anyone who can control what they say is perfect. The word perfect here sounds like the unachievable mark but it just means to be complete, or like God. You see, the more we control our words we come closer to that mark where God wants us to be. As Christians, we should strive for that mark.
There used to be a man at one of the churches I where I served that was always quiet. He would let the young leaders growl and nip and not say anything. The chairman of the board would then interrupt everyone and ask this man what he thought. He would lean back, scratch his stubble, and lean forward to speak slowly and carefully. Then he would utter some words that everyone thought were very profound. He would sit back in his chair, fold his hands in his lap and look down as if he were going to pray... or take a nap. I can't say that his words were always that amazing but the very way he handled himself and shut down the room was magic. His wisdom was not always in what he said but that he didn't always "run off at the mouth" (another Dad saying).
My friends, if we want to shine the light we need to learn to use wisdom when we speak. This is especially true when we use social media, our with our friends, when we teach or use the pulpit, and when we attend meetings.
May God bless you today as you shine the light with wholesome words of encouragement that benefit all who listen.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father; You are perfect in every way. Help me to be more like you. Lord, Fill my mouth with worthy stuff and nudge me when I’ve said enough. Thanks, Father, I pray this in Jesus’ name, AMEN!
19. Don’t be judgmental - Mt 7:3
Matthew 7:1-5 - “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Sometimes it is hard to accept others who aren't on the same "spiritual level" that we are. I remember when a man and his wife came to our church for the first time. I will call this couple Martin and Alice for the sake of this story. Both Martin and Alice had mental problems and issues due to the way they were raised and because of drug abuse and alcohol. After a while they accepted the Lord and where baptized. They were welcomed into the church but not very warmly.
I often heard people complain because Martin didn't have very good hygiene habits. They also complained because Alice often stared at people without saying a word. I took them both under my wing and tried to help them out but it was very time consuming and exhausting. It turns out that Alice was quite the artist. Martin couldn't do much but he always had a question or comment in Bible Study.
On one particular evening we were having supper before Wednesday Night Bible study. The meal was supposed to be pancakes but one of our women also fixed some eggs. After prayer, Martin went through the line first and scooped on his plate almost all the eggs. One of our leaders pulled me aside and asked me what I was going to do about it. "Nothing," I said, "If Martin is hungry then we need to feed him a physical meal before we try to feed him a spiritual meal." I went next door to my house and brought over 3 dozen fresh eggs that a friend of mine had given to me that day so that everyone could have eggs.
Another time, Martin's car broke down on the side of the road. Guess who he called to help him out? He called that same leader. The fellow wasn't too happy to go and help in the first place but Martin just stood there as the leader changed the tire he became infuriated.. He very sternly told Martin that he came to help not to do everything. Martin had never changed a tire before. In fact, Martin only knew how to put gas in a car and drive.
Now you may think that I am being hard on this leader but the truth is that I can't count how many times I have treated others indifferently because they grew up differently, or were of shady background, or were just too different from me. God has had to work hard to break down my walls of prejudice, judgement, and fear. And I am a work in progress.
We are all sinners. Those who profess Christ are sinners saved by grace. We need to offer the same love, grace, forgiveness, and acceptance that Christ offered to us. If you want to shine like a star against the backdrop of a dark and corrupt generation than you need to learn to be compassionate and not judgmental and that is going to take willingness, time, and help form God.
May God bless you today as you shine the unconditional light of love into a world that needs to an out-stretched hand.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; How is it that you can love so unconditionally? I love you for that. You have shown your love to me so often when I didn't deserve it. Help me not to judge people but to be a fruit inspector. Help me not to establish a lofty pedestal for myself and look down on those who don't measure up to my standards. Thank you again for Jesus. I pray in his name and authority, AMEN!
18. Love the Unlovable - Mt 5:43-48
Matthew 5:43-48 -“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
“Now you’ve done it, preacher. You have gone from preachin’ to meddlin’. It’s not bad enough that we got to shine the light by “going the extra mile’ but we have to love our enemies… that’s not difficult, it’s impossible!”
I must admit that I have trouble loving people who hurt me. I drove past a town today where I had been fired from a ministry. Some of the bad memories came pouring out that I though were long since buried. The memory of things said and done to me haunted me for a while. Angry faces flooded my mind. Resentment and bitterness started to stick in my craw…
But then I also started to remember the good times too. I thanked God for the blessing that happened in that town and the friendships that I still have there. I remembered some of the people who showed love to me when I made mistakes or didn’t handles things very well. And I had to smile… God even used the circumstances of that time to strengthen me and bring him glory.
I think that it is easier to love your enemies when your remember that they were created by God in his image just like you and I. It also helps to remember that God loves us in spite of our sins and disobedience. He didn’t just send his Son to die on the cross for me but also for even those who treat me poorly.
The answer to the problem is to pray for them. But how? “God bless my enemy and make them prosper? I don’t think so!” It’s hard to think of things that I can pray about for them. I have to think hard about it. I have to find out what their needs really are. I have to get close to them to find that out. I have to cross my own comfort zone.
But there is something healing about praying for your enemy. As you explore ways to pray you begin to show concern. Then you start praying a bit more earnestly. Then you start to really care for the person you are praying for… dare I say it… You find yourself loving that person in spite of your best efforts not too.
Congratulations, now you are loving like God loves. You are perfect… complete… like him.
May God bless you today as you begin to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Heavenly Father; I praise you for your endless love and grace. You care for me even when I don’t deserve your love. Help me to pray for my enemies and to learn to love them the way you love me. Thank you for showing your love in Jesus. It is in his name that I pray, AMEN!
31 Ways To Let Your Light Shine!
17. Go The Extra Mile -Matthew 5:38-42
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
I must admit that you got me on this one, Lord. No, I understand perfectly well what you are saying. But do you know how hard it is to just endure what I am told by these people? Do you know how hard it is not to get even? Do you know how hard it is to forgive them?
Well, Yes, I guess you do. You demonstrated that in the beatings you endured by the temple soldiers, Herod's men, the priest, Pilate's soldiers. You endured the shame of the cross, the pain, the rejection, the blood. You could have called down 10,000 angels. You could have spoke and the ground would have swallowed them up. You could have just thought them out of existence. I guess you do know what you are asking of me.
If I am going to shine the light of Jesus then I need to be willing to go the extra mile, turn the other cheek, give my coat too. After all that you endured on the cross your light still was shining bright and caused a soldier to recognize that you are the Son of God. Jesus, help me to shine the light even when my enemies are storming me.
May the Light of Jesus shine through you today. May God bless you as you go the extra mile!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord and my God; I praise you because you are perfect and holy. I am not but I am trying to be like you. Your Son set an example for me about going the extra mile. I can't believe what he endured. He didn't just do it because he loves me... He loves the one who put the nails through his hands too. Father, give me the strength to go the extra mile. In the name of Jesus I pray, AMEN!
16. Putting yourself out there - Mt 5:1
Matthew 5:16 - In the same way, let your light so shine before others that they will see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
I once had a friend tell me that he was "an undercover Christian". He made it sound like he was a spy who was kickin butt and taking names. He made the covert Christian lifestyle sound good.
The first problem is that God doesn't need spies. He already knows the enemy and his strongholds. He knows who is sinning and who is faithfully walking in the light. Even if he did need spies he didn't call us to fill that role.
The second problem is that God doesn't need soldiers to fight his battles. God has already won the war when Christ died on the cross. Yes, he does tell us to put on his holy armor. But we put on this armor so that we can "STAND". That's right. God wants us to dress in this defensive armor and just stand our ground... no retreat... no surrender. He doesn't ask us to do anything but to stand firm and watch the enemy turn and run. That's how God kicks Satan's butt.
What God does ask us to do is shine light into the world. That's why he tells us put on the armor of light. We are strangers in a strangeland, sojourning merchants selling the good news, ambassadors of the heavenly kingdom representing God, and farmers spreading the seed of the gospel. We are not spies. The only way for light to be covert in darkness is to put out the light.
People need to see the light of Jesus shining in the darkness. Are you ready to put yourself out there?
May God bless you today as you shine in the darkness.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Almighty God; You are powerful beyond all comprehension. Your heavenly host stand ready for your every need. You have for me to be a spy or a super soldier. Help me stand firm in the armor of light so that the enemy will be shaken by how you have transformed my life by your power and your light. Thank you for Jesus in whose name I pray, AMEN!
15. Being counter-culture - Ro 13:12,14; 12:2a
Romans 13:12-14 - The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Romans 12:2- Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to prove what God's will is - His good, pleasing, and perfect will.
A sure fire way to let your light shine in this world is to be different. It gets attention. I saw a picture on facebook for a guy painted gold from head to foot with a sign that said, "Different is good."
One of the biggest arguments against Christianity is the hypocrisy of those who profess to believe. "Dey ain't no different den anyone else in dis world," a woman told me, "In fact, dey worse, cause dey know'd better."
I would answer that we are all sinners saved by grace. And that is true. I don't question the salvation of those who profess Christ with their lips but don't live by his word and way. That is HIS job. Grace is for salvation but we are to walk in the light as He is in the light. We are to live in righteousness, faith, and obedience... and his grace fills in the gaps.
Time to be different, brothers and sisters! It's time to clothe ourselves in Christ and go out into the world and get your hands dirty. Pick up every stone and shine the light of Jesus under it. Open the door at midnight and let the light shine in the darkness. It's good to be different.
May God bless you this day as you put on Christ and shine in the darkness.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Oh Lord, My God; You have created me to be a unique individual. I thank you for making be different. Help me to stand out in the world not because I have blue hair, dress funny, or have a tattoo but because I stand for you in a world that often ridicules, rejects, and hates those who shine the light of Jesus. Help me to stand firm. Clothe me in Christ. It is in Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
14. Show a genuine interest in others and get to know them - Galatians 6:10
Galatians 6:10 - So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Most people who know me realize that I have trouble remembering names and faces. Sometimes It takes me a while to learn the names of new people I meet. Then there are those people who I should know and I can't remember their names. It has caused me embarrassment on a number of occasions.
I took a special workshop while I was in college to help me remember names and faces. The first session was informative but during the second session the workshop leader tested us to see what we had learned. Everyone did well but me. The workshop leader told me after the third session that I didn't need to come to the fourth and fifth session because some people just can't get it! Talk about humiliation!!!
But there is one thing that I am learning that helps even in my mid-50's. If you take time to show genuine interest and get to know the person then the names sticks better. That's because the person is no longer a casual acquaintance but is now a friend. And friends remember.
I have also learned that your light shines bright for the Lord when you show an interest in others and concern for them. When you ask, "How is your son doing?" or "How's the arthritis today?" people know you are aware of what's happening in their life and that you have been listening and are concerned. When you call and say, "I was just thinking about you...how are you?" They know you care and your light shines bright.
Today would be a great day to call someone or take a few cookies by their house. May God bless you as you shine the light of concern in the lives of others.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; You have protected, provided, and guided me in your path. You genuinely care for me and you KNOW me. Please help me to show concern and to get to know others. Help me to be a friend especially to those who do not have a friend in life. I love you, Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray, AMEN!
13. Be An Example of Growing Faith - 2 Thessalonians 1:3
2 Thessalonians 1:3 - We ought to always thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.
Isn't it interesting that our love for others increases as we grow in faith? That is because as we grow in faith we become more and more like Christ. The love of our Lord overflows from us as we let his love flow in us.
One of the ways that we can make our light shine is to allow others to see that we are a work in progress. Faith is a growing process in our lives... from mustard seed faith to stand strong faith! God has sanctified us and justified us but we still have to grow in faith. Paul tells us in Philippians 3 that we are to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling". In other words our faith is a process of growth.
I really made a mistake one time. NO... I sinned. Let's not white-wash it. My children were all witnesses to the iniquity. But instead of denying it or sweeping it under the rug I shared my mistake with them and owned it. It was an opportunity for them to see how God works through our weaknesses to help us grow In faith to be the person we ought to be in Christ. Yes, it hurt like heck and was humbling. We all cried. And God brought healing and growth.
It is easier for us as Christians to be examples of growth in victories of faith but it is harder to shine the light by being an example of growth in failure and defeat.
May God bless you as you shine as a humble example of growing faith.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord and Creator; Thank you for making me me. I appreciate your care in crafting me. Help me to be who you created me to be. Help me to show others that I am a work in progress and that although I have aim for the mark I have not yet achieved it. Thanks for being patient with me as my faith in you has grown. Thank you for Jesus who is the mark that I aim for. It is in his name that I pray, AMEN!
12. Showcase the light - people see the light when it permeates your life - Daniel 12:3.
Daniel 12:3 - Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.
I remember the the old dish soap commercial where the Solon specialist tells about how good her dish soap is for cleaning dishes. "But is it good for your hand," the customer ask? The specialist responds, "Your soaking in it. Good for your dishes and your hands!"
If we want to shine the light of Jesus we need to soak in his glory. His light needs to shine in every area of our lives. The big things and the little things... all should be submersed in the goodness of his light. lt's good for you and your witness.
A friend of mine was having lunch with his business associates and he stopped to have prayer before the meal as was his custom. One of his associates started having a bit of sport with him. My friend smiled but did not say anything. One of the other men said "it is his consistent integrity that has given him the eye and the ear of the boss." The man who had started the sport looked at my friend and said, "Maybe you should pray for all of us." So he did. And after that day the men had prayer together every time they ate. Soon some of the men and women started meeting for devotions before work. What started as a joke ended in shining light into the lives of others.
Just this morning I had a nurse ask me if I was a pastor. She had seen the way that I act and noted the devotion book on the tray. We then had a great discussion on church work.
When you let the light of Jesus permeate every aspect of your life others can't help but notice.
May God bless you as you soak in his glory and light.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy God: You are holy, righteous, pure… there is no darkness in you at all. Please allow me to bask in the rays of your glorious light so that all the the areas of my life reflect the glowing radiance off your awesomeness. When others look into my life I want them to see you, and only you. Thank you for Jesus and sanctifying me through his name. It is by his name and authority that I approach your brilliance, AMEN!
11. Be slow to anger and quick to listen.
James 1:19 - My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.
Ephesians 4:25-27 - Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,and do not give the devil a foothold.
We all know that we should love others. That is the prime directive of being a Christian. But for some reason that is harder to put into practice than it is to proclaim. I wish I had a penny for everyone who told me "The Bible tells me that I have to LOVE that person but it doesn't say that I have to LIKE them." Although I don't agree with that statement I have to admit that some people are harder to love than others.
The problem is that the seeds of hate are planted deep inside us. Paul tells us that we should "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Ep 4:31) Why? Because these are the seeds of hate! These seeds can be planted when we get irritated at others because they did or didn't do something we liked. They are watered by tears of our continued frustration with that person. The seeds of bitterness begin to germinate. It doesn't take long for these seeds to become weeds in the garden of love.
So we need to sow seeds of kindness instead. Paul goes on to says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ep 4:32). Jesus forgave us and freed us from sin when we were ugly and filled with sin. While we were yucky and hard to love He loved us to the full extent of giving his life for us (Ro 5:6-8).
So if you are noting that you are starting to become irritated and frustrated with a someone than you need to stop what your doing and go work it out. That's how you get rid of the seeds of hate before they have a chance to get planted.
May God bless you as you shine the light of kindness and compassion into a world that needs to see the love of Christ in us.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; Thank you for your boundless love. You are compassionate and kind. You forgive me when I don't deserve it. Help me to forgive others and work to shining the light of love to all. Help me to be the man you have called me to be today. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
10. Listen to others. Truly listen. Don’t judge, dismiss them, or think about what you are going to say. -Proverbs 18:13
Proverbs 18:13 -If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (ESV)
When I was a young man a friend of mine lost his mother in an accident. I didn't want to go to the funeral or to even visit him. Our time together had always been laughter and jokes. Now it would be sadness and grief... I didn't know how to handle it. I confided in an older Christian and told him that I wouldn't know what to say. "Don't say anything," he said, "Just listen."
I met with this friend before the visitation. You don't know how hard it was for me to keep my mouth closed. A joke or something funny would come to mind and want to flood out but I choked them all back. My friend came up to me and we stood for a moment in awkward silence. We hugged. As we embraced he whispered with a shaky, emotion filled voice... "say something funny." I didn't miss a beat. "Your standing on my foot," I replied. We both laughed and then we sat down and talked.
I think it was the first time that I listened, really listened to him. Usually we were trying to "one up" each other or tell a better story. I learned more about him in one day than I had in the years we had known each other.
One of the best ways we can shine the light is to truly listen to what others have to say. Stop thinking of how you will reply in your mind while they are talking. Just let them talk.
The verse that probably fits me best is from Proverbs 17:28: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” This is the verse that inspired the old saying: “Better to let others think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
May the Lord bless you today as you keep quiet and listen more to what others have to say. Shine the light!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord, You are marvelous and the heavens are filled with your praises. So often I want to lift my voice to share with others all the glories you have shown on me. Help me today to be quiet and listen. Help me listen to your word. Help me listen to others. Help me follow the Holy Spirit's lead. In Jesus' Name; AMEN!
9. Be Who God Created You To Be - Ephesians 2:1-10
Ephesians 2:1-10 - "...He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing." (MSG)
In Bible times you were blessed to work alongside a master craftsman and learn the trade. When you had learned all that you could possibly learn your skills would be put to the test to make something in which the master craftsman could find no flaw. If you were able to past the test your test piece was now called your "masterpiece". This was not hung on the wall or put up for show... it was put to good use. It was created to draw business to the new master craftsman. It was created for a purpose.
In this verse we see that we are created as a masterpiece of God. Although we are flawed and imperfect God takes us and makes us flawless through Jesus Christ. He does this for two reasons: 1. He loves us. 2. Because he has a purpose for us. That purpose was established in the beginning of creation. We were created to be lights or stars that draw others to the Master. We are created to help draw all men to salvation.
When you understand God's grace and your place in his work it will make a difference. You were created with a purpose. You have a function. You are valued and loved. Now shine brightly so that others can find purpose and love in the hands of our Master craftsman.
May God bless you as you discover your purpose in Him. May others see you shining as a proud masterpiece of what our Great God can do.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord and Master; Thanks for creating me. Thanks for loving me. You are great and creative. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Help me to be your masterpiece today. Help me to shine the light to others while I am here in this place. Thank you for Jesus in whose name I pray this prayer of gratitude. AMEN!
8. Speak truth. Balance it with love. Psalm 15:1-3
Psalm 15:1-3 -Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart;
whose tongue utters no slander,
who does no wrong to a neighbor,
and casts no slur on others
We live in a world where people bend and stretch the truth all the time. Facts are manipulated to favor whatever point is trying to be proven or whatever candidate needs your vote. It's hard to know exactly where the truth lies today. Truth is subjective in the world today. Even ObiWan spoke the truth "from a certain point of view."
Satan is a "liar and the Father of lies." And we often think of the red dude with an attitude trying to seduce people to the dark side with lies. But the devil is sneaky and puts just enough truth in his tales to make you believe it or want it to be true. He did this with Eve in the Garden and Jesus in the wilderness and he continues it today.
Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). He is absolute truth. There is no deception. There is no situational ethics. There is just the truth and an invitation to join him.
As shining stars we need to let the light of truth shine out. The world finds people who tell the truth refreshing... they don't know how to handle it. They cock their head when someone owns up to their own mistakes instead of casting the blame. They look long into the face of someone who shares the truth even when it hurts the one telling it. They shake their heads when someone states what others are afraid to say.
Unfortunately, when the truth is spoke today it is often used as a weapon. Some gather and store up bits of truth to use as bombs to throw out in an argument or when it becomes useful for their purpose. Truth must be spoken out of love and never used to harm or take advantage.
May God bless you today as you speak truth, life, and light into the lives of others. May they see the truth of God in you and seek the truth for themselves.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; When I think of your attributes I rarely think of truth. My world is filled with deception and viewpoints that shift like the sand. I know that when I stand on your word that I am standing on solid rock...truth! Thank you for Jesus bringing the truth and helping us to learn how to fight Satan's deceptions with your Word and your Spirit. Thank you for your love which speaks truth into my life. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
Remember your aim is to please the Lord, not man. Realize that Christ has already determined your value - now you are free from the need to please. - Ephesians 5:8-10
Ephesians 5:8-10 - For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
When you are a minister you often times end up in the trap of being a people pleaser. We hear the words of the Apostle Paul echoing in our ears "...I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some"( 1 Co 9:22) and for some reason our brain twist that around to trying to make everyone happy. The problem is that you can never please everyone.
This problem is not just for ministers. We are wired to want to be accepted by others so we sometimes blow in the wind depending on who we are with at the time. I have a friend who was telling me the other day that she has three bosses that all want different things out of her... the problem is that some of their wishes counterman the other bosses. Some people have become so cynical about pleasing others that they stop trying to please others at all.
One way that you can let the light of Jesus shine through your life is by first and foremost pleasing God and not man. Jesus has already determined your value and it is not based on anything you have done. Jesus loves you and died for you "while you we were yet sinners"... anything but pretty. It is not by the work of your hands that he loves you but buy the work of his hands that were nailed to a cross for you.
You are free from people-pleasing! So let his light shine. Go the extra mile not because you want to please someone but because you want to please the Lord. Turn the other cheek not because you want to avoid a fight with someone but because you want to please Jesus. When someone wants a minute of your time give them more because that makes Jesus happy.
Your light shines bright when you let it shine for Jesus. Give him the glory and praise all day long. May God bless you as you seek to please the Lord first and foremost.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father Above; You are loving and kind. Your grace has found me. You fill my day with light and life. There are sometimes that I want to be accepted and appreciated by others, Lord. Help me to put that desire toward pleasing you and living as a child of light. Help me to bear fruit of light. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
Let the joy out - joy and smiles - Psalm 47; Proverbs 17:22
Psalm 47:1-9 - Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.... (Read the rest of the chapter. It is good!)
Proverbs 17:22 - A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
I was visiting the hospital one day when I doctor came in. His patient was dying but was in a very good frame of mind. The doctor asked him what put him in a better mood. The man looked up and pointed his finger at me... "Preacher brought some good medicine."
We often underestimate just how much light shines when we have God's joy in our heart. We live in a world that can be cold, harsh, and depressing at times. Sometimes it can be overwhelming and crush our spirit and our bones. But the joy of the Lord is strength. It's good medicine that the world needs. It is a light or beacon that draws people to Him. And sometimes that light starts with just a smile.
When people come to church for the first time they want to see joy. They want to experience real joy. After all, we are sinners saved by God's grace through Jesus Christ our Lord! If that don't bring joy and light your fire than your wood is wet!!!
Now I have to admit that I don't always feel joyful. I can sometimes be a moody cuss. So I have to work on it by stoking the heart with God's word and his praise. I have to count his blessings and let Satan know that he is not going to rob me of this light.. this joy. I don't want this joy to be fake. I don't want this light to be artificial. I want the true joy of the Lord shining out of my life.
May God bless you today as you shine the light with joy and a beautiful smile. God loves you and so do I.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father of Light, Shine on me! Let your joy flood every aspect of my life that it may be a light that draws people to you. Feed me with your word and fill my heart with your blessings so that true joy will overflow from my heart. Thank you for Jesus! Thank you for life abundant! Thank your for eternal life and hope. In the name of Jesus I bow before you with this prayer of praise and joy. AMEN!
5. Be the Answer to Someone’s prayer today.
James 5:13-18 - "...The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective..."
I was going through FB yesterday looking at all the post before I had my morning prayer time with my Lord. I notice so many people with prayer request and I started jotting them down. Before long I had a lengthy list. The prayer list at church is always lengthy too. There is so much need out there.
I believe that one way that we can shine like stars is to pray for people who have needs. Sometimes the need is so great that only our powerful, compassionate God can bring an answer. But there are other times when I see needs that are rather simple... and something stirs inside me.
Sometimes when I am praying I get the urge to do something more. Perhaps that is God's Spirit stirring in me the desire to be an answer to prayer. After all, James tells us that we should put our faith in action rather than just saying "I'll be praying for you"(James 2:14-27).
Being an answer to prayer is a powerful way to shine the light. It might be as simple as writing an encouragement note to someone who is depressed or stopping by someone who is sick and shut-in. Other times it may cost a little more like giving some money or buying some groceries. Sometimes it may take a little work like fixing someone's porch steps or mowing their lawn. Sometimes the answer to someone's prayer takes coordinated effort with other Christians or the Church.
Most people who are suffering just want to know that someone is listening and cares. God maybe stirring in you to be the answer to someone's prayer today.
May God bless you today as you seek to be the answer to someone's prayer.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord In Heaven; You are my provider, protector, healer, comforter, and savior. You have done so much for me. Help me to be the answer to someone’s prayer today. Help me to see the needs around me and to be a blessing so that your light will shine through me. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!
4. Praise the Lord. Authentically praise the name of the Lord when given the opportunity. Instead of moaning about life praise God for what he has done and is doing in your life. Ps 40:1-3
Philippians 2:14-16 -Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.
Have you ever stopped to count how many times a day you say something negative. I notice that especially when my wife and I go window shopping. She will usually say something like, "Is that table setting just lovely?" I will then throw in my two cents worth, "I really don't like all that flowery stuff on it." If I'm really in the wrong place in my thinking I might throw in a "HA" before I say anything and then tell her how much I really don't like it.
Don't get me wrong, It's okay to have an opinion. But sometimes an opinion boldly stated can cause hurt feelings and division. This is not way to shine the light of Christ. When we were first married, my sister told me that she didn't like to be around us. "One minute you are arguing and the next you are lovey-dovey." My sister could have used the shining light of Jesus instead of the roller-coaster ride of two highly-opinionated people.
Unfortunately I see a lot of this among Christians. There are a lot of people who like to tell their opinions very loudly especially if they had no part in it. WE complain about the temperature of the sanctuary, the color of the carpet, the way someone did something, how the offering is being spent, or even what the preacher said or did THIS TIME. The problem is that people outside the church or visiting the church hear this instead of seeing the shining light of Jesus.
At the children's home where I used to work we had a way to stop complaints. if someone continued to talk negative about someone or something we would say, "Now tell us five things good things." This is a good way to train your mouth not to run off before your brain is in gear! Think before you speak.
Another good ways to learn to say positive things is to think of all the things God has done for you. I love what David said in Psalms 40:1-3:
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.
He put a new song in my mouth of praise to our God! Let's sing it out and let our light shine for Jesus today. May God bless you as you shine the light and speak beautiful things today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God Almighty; You are worthy of all my praise. Forgive me when I don't watch what comes out of my mouth. Help me to speak words of praise to you and gentle words of compassion to others. Fill my mouth with worthy stuff and nudge me when I've said enough. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
3. Don’t try to shine harder… plug into the source of light… God. Daily immerse yourself in the Word of the God. -Is 60:20
Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.-Is 60:20
We can all remember our teacher at school telling us that we just need to apply ourselves. Mom would tell us to try harder. Dad would add, "Don't try...do!" Our coach would tell us to get our head in the game and practice harder...go, go, go. Our boss would tell us that we really needed to want it and then it would happen.
But in our walk with the Lord I think we try that same thing and we fail miserably every time. You can not succeed just by trying harder. The Apostle Paul tells about trying harder in Romans 7 and he compares the experience to a wretched, battle-weary, soldier fighting in his own head. It's a battle we can't win. "Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" (Ro 7:24)
Shining bright in 2017 is not just a New Years Resolution. Resolutions often fail because people try hard but aren't willing to make the necessary long-term lifestyle changes to make it happen.
The answer for Christians is before you try to shine you have to "plug in" to the source of power. Yes, just like the old lamp sitting by my bed. It has to be plugged into the outlet before it will give light for me to read by.
Christians need to plug into the Word of God. We need to plug into God as the source of power to shine. We need to plug into Jesus to shine his light. We need to plug into the Holy Spirit so he can help us shine everyday in every way. We need to plug into God's word and pray if we are going to shine.
That is one of the reasons that I am encouraging our congregation to read through the Bible this year. Daily Bible reading helps you to plug into the real source of light so that we can reflect his glory and not just a work of our own hands.
May God bless you today as you plug into the source of power and shine bright for him.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, Your are an ever-present source of light into my life. I want to shine for you. Thank you for the tools I need to shine. Thank you for the Word and the Spirit. Help me to continue to reflect your light in all that I do. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
2. Remember that it is not our light that is showing but his. -Jn 1:4-5
'In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." -John 1:4-5 (NIV).
I recently had the opportunity to visit a church with a huge choir. The music was good but there was one person who through animated gestures and singing above the rest drew attention to herself. For me it was a distraction from the harmony of the rest of the choir and it took the spotlight off the message they were trying to present and put it on her.
Sometimes we can be the same ways. "Look at all the things I do for the church," or "without me this church would collapse!" I have heard people say things that both distract from the unity and harmony of the body of Christ and the Good News message of Jesus.
Philippians 2:3-5 says, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus..."
As shining stars we are not trying to outshine the light of others. We are a mere reflection of the light of Jesus. Like the moon reflecting the suns light, we reflect Jesus so that others don't see our light but see Jesus shining through our lives.
Before you do anything examine yourself and make sure your motives are pure. You want to shine the light of Jesus because the light of Jesus came into your life and changed you. So let your light shine so that others glorify God.
May God bless you this day as you reflect the light of Jesus and shine for Him.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord of Light; I praise you for your light. You shine your light into my life. You give me the light to see the right path. Help me to reflect the light so that others can see the way to go. I praise you, Oh Father! Thank you for the light of the world, JESUS. It is in his name that I pray. AMEN!
1. Pray and ask God how you can let your light shine. Trust that God will lead you in his ways. -2 Co 4:6
"For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ" -2 Co 4:6
Every Christian should know the Jesus said "You are the light of the world... let your light so shine before men that they will see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." After all, most of us have sang "This little light of mine" at one time or another.
But how do you let your light shine? This month we will be looking at some practical ways to let your light shine. But this is not about you... It's about God. It's about what he has done in you. It's about Jesus who loves and gives grace.
So the first step...as in just about everything... is to pray. Pray that God will shine in you, through you, and over you. Pray that your life will not be a distraction the light. Pray that God will give you the courage to shine in all situations.
And then trust God to do something wonderful in your life. He already has in Jesus Christ. Now trust him to use your life as a beacon to bring others to him.
You are either a star shining bright for him or you are a black hole. A black hole is a star that has refused to shine. It collapses on it's own gravity and becomes so dense that it's gravity begins to suck in everything around it... including the light of other stars. Don't be a black hole!
May God bless you today as you ask him to help you shine with the light and love of Jesus in your heart.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father God; You are light and glory! You are magnificent, beyond description, awesome, and wondrous. Fill me with your light and let me shine. Help me to be the man you want me to be. In the name of Jesus, AMEN!
31. Resurrection and the Life – “Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” John 11:25
Jesus was talking to Martha on the occasion of her brother's death. In fact, Lazarus had been buried for 3 days. Martha had the faith that Jesus could have healed her brother if only he had gotten there sooner. Jesus reminds her that he holds the keys to life.Her reply is an undeniable statement of faith: “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
As wonderful as the resurrection of Lazarus was I believe that it was a confirmation of what had been said between Jesus, Martha, and Mary. The action of raising Lazarus was an illustration that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
Jesus would again illustrate this with his own death and resurrection. Yes, Jesus alone holds the keys to life. And that key will open up eternal life to anyone who believes in Him.
I cannot think of a better way to wrap-up these 31 Names of Jesus. Oh, there are at least a dozen or more names that I have not used in this study. I choose the ones that would help define this baby who was born in Bethlehem and whom I eagerly await his return.
I would like you to open the lock to resurrection and life today. The key is Jesus. Believe in your heart that he is "Messiah, the Son of God." Pray for forgiveness and invite Jesus into your life. Find a minister who will baptize you and who can guide you. Join a church that will help hold you accountable and encourage you in your continued relationship with Jesus. Stand firm in your faith and follow him in obedience to His word.
I praise God for Jesus, the resurrection and the life. May God bless you today and in the coming year as you seek to follow Him.
PRAYER THOUGHT: O Holy God Above; I praise you for righteousness and your love. I thank you for giving me the key to resurrection and life. I praise you for your Son, Jesus Christ. I ask today that you help me live for you. I pray as we enter this new year that you will guide me and help me be the man you have called me to be. In Jesus' precious name I pray, AMEN!
30. Savior – “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
“He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10
SAVED! Oh what a word. What a feeling. At just the right moment he saved us from destruction.
It reminds me of the old silent films where the beautiful woman is tied to the railroad tracks or some other horrible gruesome way to die. The villain laughs and twist his mustache. He tricked her into signing the deed and with her death he gets her property and all she owns. The hero, in his white hat, jumps off his white stead and saves the lady at the last minute. The villain mutters, "Rats, Foiled again!" I don't have to imagine the gratitude that the lady has for her hero. She gives him a big kiss and thanks him.
The villain is Satan. His railroad tracks are temptation and sin. The train is death... Hell. We are the victim but not an innocent victim for we have willingly sinned... we signed the deed with our desires and selfishness. Jesus is the hero in the white hat who swoops in to save us.
Jesus came to save us from our sins. His very name, Jesus, literally means "salvation". He saves us and calls us to a holy life of purpose... his purpose.
I praise God for my Hero, my Savior, Jesus Christ. May God bless you as you express your gratitude today to this hero for your salvation.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord of All; I praise you for my hero, Jesus, Christ. I know that my sins have signed the deed to my destruction. But you have sent your Son, Jesus, to die for me. OH WHAT A FEELING! I AM SAVED! I want to show my gratitude to you. Help me to life for you each day. In the name of Jesus I pray, AMEN!
29. The Word – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
I used to know this guy who was a stoner before meeting Jesus. Every time I would say something to him he would nod his head and say, "word." For me it was a bit annoying until he explained to me that it was kind of like saying, AMEN, or I agree. I was okay with it after that but I don't believe I am ready to end my prayers by saying "word".
Jesus is Logos, the WORD. This is a very beautiful way of describing our Lord, Jesus Christ. When you think about it you will find rich meaning to his name. "WORD!"
In Greek philosophy, the logos is "a lifeless and impersonal abstract philosophical concept that is a necessary postulate for the cause of order and purpose in the universe." Although the apostle John was not a Greek philosopher his description of Jesus as the WORD made the Logos personal with the power of unity, coherence, and purpose. In other words, if you really want purpose and meaning in your life than you need to look to the WORD, Jesus Christ. "WORD!"
In the beginning we see that God spoke everything into existence; "And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." John 1 says that the WORD was with God in the beginning and that all things were created through him and by him. I love to picture Jesus as the WORD that God spoke to create all things. "Jesus" and there was the heavens and the earth. "Jesus" and their was animals. 'WORD!"
In Hebrews it says that the WORD, is living and active and able to judge our heart's intent. We all agree that this is referring to the scriptures. But it also brings greater depth when we add Jesus' name to this verse: "For JESUS is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, JESUS penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; JESUS judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (He 4:12)." "WORD!"
By looking to Jesus as WORD, John makes several statements about his nature. Never has so few verse given such deep doctrine:
1. Jesus is eternal (“In the beginning was the Word”)
2. Jesus was with God prior to coming to earth (“the Word was with God”)
3. Jesus is God (“the Word was God.”)
4. Jesus is Creator (“All things were made through him”)
5. Jesus is the Giver of Life (“In him was life”)
6. Jesus became human to live among us (“the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”)
My friend said that "word" means "I agree". In 1 John 5, the apostle John says that the Father, Spirit, and Son all agree to the testimony: "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life." "WORD!"
AMEN means "let it be so" or "I agree". This is how we end our prayers so when you really think of it, "WORD" may not be such an inappropriate way to end our prayers. After all, we pray in the name or authority of Jesus and Jesus' name is WORD. "WORD!"
I praise God for the WORD, Jesus Christ. May you be richly blessed by the WORD today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Heavenly Father; Thank you for the WORD, Jesus Christ. Thank you for the life that he brings to me. I praise you for having my salvation worked out long before I was even born. Help me to live by the WORD. Help me to grow in the WORD. Help me to be the man you want me to be. In Jesus' name, AMEN! (WORD!)
28. True Vine - "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” John 15:1
My wife, Wendy jokes that she has a brown thumb because every plant she brings home suffers and turns brown. Yet she seems to keep bringing those poor things home to torture. Must be some therapy or something from all the grief I give her.
I have learned a lot about plants over the years even though I too am not very good with them. Plants take more than light and water to make them grow. They need good nourishment from the nutrients in the soil and air.
Every person needs good spiritual nourishment to grow too. God's word are the source that spiritual nourishment. Jesus is the vine that brings that nourishment from the word to us. We are branches that need to recieve His Word to grow. Those who do will grow but those who do not will whither on the vine.
God, the vine master, comes to check on the plant. He wants to make sure that it produces good fruit in accordance with His Word. When it doesn't produce fruit or it starts to wither he must cut off that branch to make room for new growth.
That is why I am concerned to see so many Christians take so little interest in Sunday School, Bible Study, or Growth Groups. I am concerned that there seems to be little interest in growing in the word with fellow believers. Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another." And Hebrew 10:25 tells not to stop meeting together but to encourage each other to grow and be strong. It is very important for us to meet and study together so that we don't wither on the vine.
Our church is also trying to encourage this by reading through the Bible in 2017. At Beaver Creek Christian Church we will be using Michael Coley's reading plan which you can download a copy at http://www.Bible-Reading.com. But you can use any plan that you would like. The Bible Project has a really good Bible reading plan that includes videos to help you have a deeper understanding of what you are reading (https://thebibleproject.com). There are tons of programs out there for reading through the Bible in a year. Join us as we read through the Word of God in 2017!
I praise God for the vine, Jesus Christ, who bring nourishment from the Word of God, so that I can grow in spirit and truth. May God bless you today as you grow in Him too.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God; I praise you for helping me grow through study and application of your word. I thank you for fellow believers who help me to be accountable. I ask that you feed me with your word and help me to be the kind of branch that produces fruit... 100 fold. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
27.. The Door – “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9
Jesus is the door or the "sheep-gate". Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks would often make a pen for the sheep out of shrubs or stones. The shepherd would use his own body to block the opening. He was the sheep-gate or door that would keep the sheep in the safety of the pen and keep out the wild animals who would harm the sheep.
Jesus is the doorway for us to enter to the Father. He keeps out those who are cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars (Re 21:8). He allows those who have their name written in the Book of Life to enter in.
I praise God for Jesus, the door to eternal life. May God bless you as you enter into his fold.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord Almighty, Thank you for Jesus the door to eternal life. I praise you for my Good Shepherd. Please help me to live for you each day. Help me not to get dragged down by all the problems of life but to remember the hope that I have. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
26. Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Is. 9:6
Technically, we will be dealing with 4 names of Jesus today instead of just one. The promise of Isaiah 9 is that a special ruler shall come form the line of Judah. This King would be different from the any that the world had ever seen.
He is the wonderful counselor. His teachings, his parables, his knowledge, his authority, and his ability to speak to anyone with empathy and compassion caused wonder and amazement. Jesus amazed the priest and Levites because he knew so much and spoke with authority at just twelve years old. As an adult, people were often awed by his teachings and how he spoke with authority. People recognized that he was not like the Pharisees and Priest because he spoke with authority and concern. Jesus can relate to all your problem and situations.
He is the Mighty God. I often get into weird discussions with people about the differences between Jesus and God. Some people just want to catalogue him and put him in a box. A man chastised me one day for praying to Jesus. He said that we HAD to pray to God and do it in Jesus' name. But Jesus is God... God is Jesus. Jesus himself said, "I and the Father are one." He carries with him all the authority and power of God. Jesus is "God in a bod," man. Don't try to wrap your mind around it... just accept it.
He is the Everlasting Father. Jesus is The Beginning and The End. He is the First and the Last. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is eternal in nature...always was and always will be. You can ignore him, deny him, ridicule and maline him but he will not go away. You, my friends, will die and your body will slowly return to the dust you were created from but Jesus will still be here. If you want to invest in something that last then invest your soul in Jesus Christ!
He is the Prince of Peace. There were times when the King would send his son as an ambassador or secretary of state to work out peace with those who were defeated. It was the ultimate sign of trust. If you receive the son than you will enjoy the king's peace. But if you reject him or try to attack the prince than you have sealed your doom. Jesus has brokered our peace. He has made peace between God and man. All you have to do is accept his terms and receive the Prince of Peace.
I praise God for this wonderful promise fulfilled in Jesus. May you be blessed today as you enjoy the eternal peace and power of God wrapped up in the flesh of a man.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, I praise you for your promise of Jesus; my Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and my Prince of Peace. I want Jesus to rule in my heart so that I may treat others with wonderful words of life, compassion, peace, and truth. Help me to be the man you would have me to be today. Keep my mind focused on you and not on me. It is by the sacrifice and authority of Jesus in whose name I wear that I can come to you. So in Jesus' name I pray, AMEN!
25. Son of the Most High – “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.” Luke 1:32
There were lots of kings who claimed to be deity or sons of deity. It was a way of maintaining a god-like, absolute control over the people. After all, who would question the decisions of a god?
This was not so in Israel or Judah. God was their king long before the people rebelled and put Saul on the throne. They weren't even supposed to have a king let alone someone who would claim to be God. No king would even dare to risk the anger of the Almighty God by claiming to be him or his son. There were some pretty bad kings over the years but God's prophets, the high priest, and the people kept them from this great blasphemy.
The reason they did not have a king was because God himself was supposed to be their king. He was to protect, provide, guide, and rule his people. When Israel drank their fill of the wickedness of earthly kings God promised that he would send his Son to rule on the throne in righteousness and justice.
So when the wisemen went looking for the one born "King of the Jews" they naturally went to Herod's palace. They saw the star...the star that indicated that a king was born. They wanted to worship the one who truly was God and King.
I praise the Lord for the Son of the Most High who reigns in my heart this Christmas. May God bless you as you experience the joy and excitement of this day. MERRY CHRISTMAS, My Friends. May God rule in your hearts too.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear King of My Life; I praise you for sending your Son to build his kingdom on earth and in my heart. Help me to let him rule my life. So often I want to sit on the throne and control my life. You rule with righteousness and holiness where as I rule with selfishness and sin. Help me to submit to your will and your way. I submit to your rule in Jesus' name. AMEN!
24. Prophet – “And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” Mark 6:4
I once asked the children in my Children's Worship what they thought a prophet might be. Lots of hands went up. One of the boys thought a prophet was like a character Star Wars. Another though a prophet was someone who made money (profit?). Another thought he was a bald guy (Elisha?). But no one really knew what is a prophet.
I sometimes wonder if even the many adults really know. We often look at a prophet as one who foretells future events. But as a friend of mine recently said, "There is more forth telling of a prophet then there is foretelling."
A prophet is first and foremost a man with a message from God. Some of these men are willing to go and take the message. Isaiah, once purified, said, "Here am I, Lord. Send me."
But there were also those like Jonah who didn't want to go. Jonah decided to go the other way and he ended up fish food...sort of. And who really would blame them? Prophets were often rejected, beaten, dishonored, imprisoned, ridiculed, and put to death. It wasn't glamorous to be a prophet.
A prophet sometimes told what the future would hold. He would bring a message to the people that sometimes would tell of an impending event in the immediate future but also had an ultimate outcome or a promise of delivery in the distant future. But mostly he simply shared the word of God.
Sometimes it is easy for us to forget that Jesus was also a prophet. It always amazes me how many times he told his followers his plans. He told them that he was going to die and be raised again. But they either dismissed this, spiritualized it, or just didn't get it. But Jesus literally meant that he was going to die for our sins and be raised in victory over sin and the grave.
In Luke 4:14-30, Jesus is reading the scriptures in the synagogue of his hometown of Nazareth. He reads Isaiah 61:1,2 which is like a job description of the Messiah/prophet. Then he tells them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your sight."
1. Jesus was anointed or sent by God
2. Jesus proclaimed good new to the poor
3. Jesus proclaimed freedom to prisoners of sin
4. Jesus gave sight to the blind... but he also gave spiritual sight to those who were blinded by sin
5. Jesus set free those oppressed
6. Jesus proclaimed the day of the Lord... his coming kingdom
But they said, "Hey, we know this guy. He's one of us." So they reject him... even try to kill him. And people are still rejecting this prophet today.
Jesus proclaimed the message of God faithfully. He also foretold the immediate and future events coming. But more than that this prophet also fulfilled 355 prophesies of the Old Testament that all had to do with the Messiah to come. And as a faithful prophet he stands today at the right hand of the throne of God.
I praise God for My forth telling Prophet, Jesus Christ. May you be blessed today as this prophet is revealed to you.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, I know who holds my future because of Jesus Christ. I praise you for revealing that to me in your word. I praise you for the beautiful promise of eternal life. Forgive me of the times that I have doubted or failed you. Lift me up so that I may plainly see what is written for me in your word. Thank you for Jesus, my prophet, my priest, my king! In his precious name I pray, AMEN!
23. The Way – “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
I remember someone trying to give me directions when I first came to the mountains of North Carolina. After receiving the lengthy instruction I muttered under my breath that there must be an easier way to get there. "This is the only way to get there, preacher," they said, "You should be familiar with narrow roads."
Sometimes people think that Christians are narrow minded. "All roads lead to enlightenment," a man once told me when I was trying to share my testimony. He had all his bases covered. He had a alcove in his living room with a Madonna, Jesus, Buddha, Vishnu, a Menorah, and other things I did not recognize. He was burning stick incense. I also noted the 10 commandments mounted on his door frame. He allowed his daughter to come to my youth group but only to get a "Christian perspective".
I maybe narrow-minded but it is because my Savior says that he is The Way. He also says that he is the only ways. "No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus also said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Mt 7:13-14)."
I find it interesting that people say they want the truth but when the truth reveals himself to them they reject him. The apostle John puts it this way: "The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:9-13)"
I praise God for Jesus, The Way, who has made me a child of God the Father. May God bless you today as you find The Way in your life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father; I praise you because I truly can call you father because of Jesus. He is The Way. He has given me the directions I need to be with you in Heaven. He is the way to have peace in this life. He is the way to have victory over sin and death. He is the way to abundant living. He is the way I want to go. Thank you for The Way. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
22. Rock – “For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Co 10:4
Back when I was a youth minister at Garden Park Church of Christ in Toledo, Ohio I had the joy of leading the elementary age children during worship service. One of the favorite songs the kids would sing was "Jesus is the Rock" and He rolls my blues away; Bop shoo bop, A bop shoo bop. What joy they had on their faces.
Throughout the Bible God is depicted as a rock. He is large stone rock like what you see up on Grandfather Mountain. He has stood the test of time. He is trustworthy and true. He is solid and sturdy. He will not be moved.
A large rock is a good place to be when the wind is blowing and the rain is falling. A rock is a good defense when your enemies are hurling arrows at you. A rock is a great place to be when the floods of life come and try to wash you away. A rock is a good place to just sit down when you are hurt, sad, or lonely.
Many people have found refuge at the Rock over the years. Moses said, "He (God) is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just..."(De 32:4). David said, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior..."(2 Sa 22:2-3). Elijah found peace in the Rock of Ages when he fled from Jezabel (1 Ki 19). And even today, people are finding refuge in the Rock.
The birth of Jesus is the incarnation of the Rock. God built a fortress, a sanctuary, a refuge right here for us. Romans 9 tells us that this Rock would be a stumbling block for some people who think they have God all figured out. 1 Corinthians 10:4 tells us that Jesus was the Rock that the Hebrews drank from in the wilderness.
Peter said that this Rock would bring scandal and the downfall of many. Jesus told Peter that "on this rock (petra not retros) I will build my church." The rock, the foundation, the cornerstone of the church is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, Savior and Lord.
Isn't nice to know that when the enemies attack there is a refuge in Jesus. Isn't it comforting to know that when you are troubled or blue you can find comfort in Jesus. Isn't it nice to know when the storms of life rage you can find peace in Jesus. Jesus is the ROCK that rolls our blues away!
I praise God for Jesus, my Rock, my refuge, my strength. May God bless you today as you plant your feet firmly on the Rock of Jesus Christ.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father in Heaven, You are my Rock and my salvation. In you I will stand firm. I thank you for being my comfort and protection. I thank you for the peace in my life that comes from knowing you. I thank you for Jesus Christ, my rock and foundation. I ask that you help me to stand firm and by the man you have called me to be. Help me to bring others in need to the Rock that gives life. In Jesus' name, AMEN!
21. Redeemer – “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.” Job 19:25
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. -1 Peter 1:18, 19
My grandma Mildred used to collect S&H green stamps. These were stamps that you used to get when you went to the store to buy groceries. Depending on how much you spent you would get stamps with the dollar amount printed on them. Then came the ucky part- You would lick them and put them in books, ugh, I can still taste that glue! When you saved enough books you could trade them in at a redemption center for valuable stuff like toasters, lamps, and more. These places were called redemption centers because you would "redeem" or exchange the stamps for something of value.
The word " redeem" means to buy back, repurchase, or exchange. Often times the money or item used to redeem something or someone is called "ransom".
Our sins have made us captive. There is nothing that we can do to free ourselves. We are doomed to a life of bondage and death. Jesus is our redeemer because he loves us and exchanged his life for ours. He not only paid the ransom but he IS the ransom. He redeemed us from a life of sin and gave us real life... life abundant and free...and the hope of eternal life with God in heaven. And that, my friends, is glorious!
But let us not forget that our ransom cost God dearly. He gave his one and only Son to redeem us. Jesus bore all our sins on the cross. And He rose victoriously from the grave breaking the chains and bondage of sin forever for those who would accept him as their Lord, Savior, Redeemer.
You can get a living example of the love that God has for us and the idea of redemption by reading the book of Hosea in the Bible. Hosea was told to marry a prostitute named Gomer. He loved her. But she cheated on him, went back into prostitution, and was sold by her pimps into slavery when she was no longer bringing them customers. Homer went to the slave market to buy back or redeem his wife. God painted this picture for the northern kingdom of Israel to highlight their unfaithfulness and show his redemption. It also gives us a big picture of our sinfulness and his redemption through Jesus.
I praise God for his Son, Jesus Christ, my Redeemer and Friend! May God bless you today as you cherish the gift of freedom that his blood purchased for you.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Loving Father; You are holy. You are perfect. I praise you for redeeming me from sin and bondage through the blood of Jesus Christ your Son. Help me to live a life that is worthy of the great price you have paid for me. Thank you for paying that ransom. I praise you in the name of your Son and my Savior, Jesus Christ, my redeemer, AMEN!
20. Peace – “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” Eph. 2:14
The message of the angels to the shepherds was "peace on earth." Jesus was to bring peace. But if this is true where is it? The reality is that since the birth of Christ 2,000 plus years ago, there is no peace on earth. At any one moment in time there are at least 28 wars or armed conflicts being fought in our world. Hate, anger, jealousy, and greed seem to be the theme of attacks on innocent people.
There have always been tragedies that have tried to rob the season of peace and joy. On Dec. 7, 1941, The Japanese launched an attack on Pearl Harbor that killed 2,403 and injured 1,178. This attack ushered the United States of America into WW2 just before before Christmas. On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza entered the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and fatally shot twenty 6 and 7 year old children and six adult staff members before he took his own life. Just in the past few weeks we have seen terrorist attacks, police men and women attacked, shot, or stabbed by criminals, fires that killed and took property set by individuals who were "bored".
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that Jesus didn't bring peace but the message of "peace on earth" seems lost among the violence... or did we get the message wrong?
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow felt the same way. He lost his wife to a tragic house fire in 1861 that caused him great anguish and a conflict of faith. On top of that, The Civil War broke out that same year producing a scale of battle casualties unprecedented in American history: 620,000 dead; 460,000 wounded. To say that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was blue was an understatement.
One Christmas, he sat at his desk and he heard the church bells ringing out the message of Peace. In his mind he thought, "There is no peace on earth." But he picked up his Bible and contemplated the Christmas story from Luke 2:8-14. Suddenly inspired, He wrote a poem called “Christmas Bells.” the poem was later set to music and given the name "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day".
Longfellow discovered the true peace of Christmas as he contemplated the message of "peace on earth, good will to men." The peace that Jesus brought was not peace between countries at war. He did not come to bring "world peace" or peace between man and man. He came to bring peace between God and Man.
You see, by not following God's commands we have rebelled and declared war on God. And we have all sinned and fallen short of his glorious standard. In doing so we have brought his wrath on us. We deserve to die and go to Hell. But because of God's great love for us, in spite of our sin, God sent his Son, Jesus to take our punishment. Jesus bore all our sins on the cross and died for us. He did this so that we could have the gift of life through his gift of grace. In other words, Jesus is the ultimate peace treaty between God and us.
In Longfellow's last stanza we can see the realization of this message of peace and our response to it:
Till, ringing, singing, on it’s way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
of peace on earth, good will to men
This peace is for each person to receive and then, like the Christmas bells, we are to pass the message on to others. In sharing the message of peace between God and man we could bring peace to a sin-sick, war-torn world.
I thank God for Jesus, His peace treaty. May God bless you this day as you experience the peace of Christ in your life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God Almighty. You are awesome and worthy of all my praise and worship. I know my sins have brought conflict between you and I. I thank you for Jesus, the ultimate peace treaty. Thank you for sending him to take my punishment and bring me the gift of grace and life. I look forward to being with you in heaven one day. In Jesus' name, Amen.
19. Light of the World – "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
What is Christmas with out lights? I love to see the light displays and the Christmas tree lights. This year the big item in lights is the laser projection... jury is still out on those. No matter how you look at it the lights are beautiful.
In fact, It aways seems so dark after Christmas. All the decorations have been turned off and packed away for another year. People moaning over the electric bill. The contrast is stark.
It reminds me of the stark contrast between holiness and sin. The apostle John must of loved lights as much as I do. John said, "God is light; in him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5). He goes on to contrast the holiness and sin by talking about walking in light or walking in darkness.
The world was sure a dark place when Jesus came. Jesus was born in the darkness of night. Mary and Joseph would have needed a lamp to see the face the newborn child. Shepherds were watching their flocks by night. Angels proclaimed his glory in the night sky. Magi followed a star at night.
But it was not only dark because of night. It was dark because of sin. The world was dark under Roman oppression. It was dark with Herod's paranoid concerns of a threat to his rule. It was dark with poverty and violence. It was dark with sin.
Our world seems dark too. Sometimes I can relate to Longfellow's poem about Christmas bells. "There is no peace on earth." I think about the mother and daughter who were murdered in Everetts just a few weeks ago. I think about all the acts of terror and violence. I think about the domestic abuse, molestation, hate, anger and just plain evil. I pray for our servicemen, law enforcement, and emergency services as they battle in the darkness. I pray for our missionaries, preachers, and evangelist who battle the darkness... Lord keep them all safe.
The answer is Jesus. He is the light of the world! Where we shine the light of Jesus the world is brighter. There is hope. There is life. There is joy.
I praise God for the beautiful light of Jesus. May God bless you today as you walk in the light and shine His light into this dark world.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord of Light, Lord of Life: I praise you for shining the Light of the World into my life. Thank you for illuminating and exposing my sins so that I could be brought to repentance and accept Jesus as my savior. I ask that you help me to continue to walk in the light and to shine your light on others who are in darkness. And Lord, please protect the men and women who serve in the military and in law enforcement and emergency services as they battle in the darkness. In Jesus' name, Amen.
18. Lamb of God – “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
Jesus is not only the good shepherd but he is also the lamb of God. The image harkens back to the Old Testament. It reminds us of some of the first sacrifices and especially of the Passover lamb.
The first Passover lamb was slain and it's blood was "painted" over the doorpost of the Hebrew slaves home. The angel of the Lord was sent that night to kill all the first born but the angel passed over any home with the blood of the lamb on it.
Jesus is that Passover lamb. We have all been condemned to die for our sins. But Jesus was slain on the cross so that we could be washed in his blood and made right with God. That is why we sing such songs at church as "Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb" and "There is Power in the Blood." It is because of Jesus, the lamb that takes away the sins of the world that we can have life abundant on this earth and life eternal with God.
I saw this rewrite of Mary had a little lamb the other day and had to share it with you:
Mary had a little Lamb,
Born in Bethlehem that day.
She laid him in a manger bed
To Sleep upon the hay.
Angels filled the night-time sky
And they began to sing.
Shepherds heard them all proclaim
The birthday of a King.
Wise men saw a blazing star
Up in the sky that night.
They followed it until they found
The King of love and light.
Mary had a little Lamb,
Who came from God above,
He is the very Son of God,
Who came to share His love.
The Father of this little Lamb
Loved the world so much
That He sent his only Son to earth
So we could feel His touch.
He came to give us joy and peace
And take away our sin.
So when He knocks on your heart's door,
Be sure to let Him in.
Why do I love this precious Lamb?
What can the reason be?
The answer is quite plain to see,
It's because He first loved me!
I praise God for the precious lamb of God who takes my sins away. May God bless you today as you celebrate the lamb of God.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord, thank you for sending your precious Lamb to take away our sin. Help us to remember as we celebrate His birthday, that He was the greatest gift of all. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
17. King of Kings and Lord of Lords – “These will wage war against the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, because He is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those who are with Him are the called and chosen and faithful.” Rev. 17:14
Sometimes it is hard for us to relate to a monarchy. We may understand the principle of that government but we haven't lived under it. So we may not get this whole "Lordship" thing down.
In Jesus' day most governments were a type of government with a king or lord. Herod the Great was king of Israel when Jesus was born. Caesar Augustus was considered a "god king" even though he also had a senate to deal with.
In the feudal system the King or Lord owned all the land he ruled. He also owned everything in the land... which means people. You were not just his subject but his possession to do with as he wished. Consequently life was often viewed as cheap.
Jesus is King of Kings. In other words, He is the King of all the other kings. Jesus is also Lord of Lords because he is Lord over all other lords. They are his possession and thus everything they possess is his possession. So we are his possession too. But Jesus doesn't think you are cheap.
Unlike the kings and lords of old, Jesus does not impose himself on us. He is King of Kings by right for after all, all things were created by him and nothing that has come into being has come in to being outside of him. He has a right to "Lord" over us. But he also has given us the right of choice. And He wants you to choose to follow Him.
You can choose to let Jesus rule over you. But he wants you to give him your all. He wants all your possessions... money, car, income, family, friendships, and even the everyday silverware and your favorite cup. You must give all to Jesus, you know, "I Surrender All".
Jesus not only wants your good stuff. He wants the dark stuff too. Give him all your sins and secrets. Give him all those dark memories and nightmares. Give him your guilt and shame. Give him your hate and anger. Give him your fear and dread. Give Jesus all the bad stuff and he will use it to make something beautiful in your life.
When you accept Jesus you not only become a citizen of the kingdom of God but you are also family...WHAT? That's right, you get an inheritance. You get life to the fullest. You get life forever in heaven with Him. You get a peace that guards your heart and mind. You get to be children of God. You get more than you ever gave.
I praise God for my King! Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May God bless you today as you submit your life to him.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear King of my Life. Thank you for giving meaning and purpose to my life. Thank you for making me a part of your kingdom. Help me to serve you and be the man you have called me to be. In Jesus' name, AMEN.
16. Judge – “…he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:42
When I hear the title of judge given to someone I often think of Flip Wilson, a comic from back in the 60's who used to dress as a woman and say, "Here come the judge!, Here come the judge!"
A judge is the final authority. In a civil matter two people who are having a disagreement about something will agree to the arbitration in front of a judge. In domestic matter a judge will hear the case that is brought between a husband and wife to fairly divide assets and dissolve their union. In a criminal court the case is brought by the state and the judge hears the case that is presented between the state and the citizen accused of breaking the law. In all cases, the judge is the supreme authority in the room representing the law and justice.
Jesus is the final authority in the case of good against evil, right vs. wrong, God vs. man. He will judge not only the things that we have done but the very motives for why we did it. He will also look at our heart. And most of all he will look to see if your name is written in his book of life.
In fact, the case is very simple. WE ARE ALL GUILTY (Ro 3:22-24) and deserve to the judgement of death. "But there are extenuating circumstances, your honor. My client has been redeemed by the blood of the lamb (Ro 6:20-23, Re 12:10-11)." Case dismissed!
Those who have received Jesus Christ will be found innocent... not by anything we have done but by the grace and power of Jesus Christ, our lawyer, our judge, and our salvation.
"Here come The Judge! Here Come The Judge!" I praise God for the Judge who rules in righteousness, justice, and grace. May God bless you today through his Son, Jesus Christ.
PRAYER THOUGHT; Dear Lord of Heaven and Earth, I want to thank you for being a just God and a loving God. Your justice and your love balance out to provide for us salvation through Jesus Christ. I praise you for making Jesus both our judge and our advocate. Please help me live my life in accordance to your will and way. Help me to treat others as you have treated me. In the name of Jesus I pray, AMEN.
15. Indescribable Gift – “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.” 2 Cor. 9:15
I don't know why we obsess over gifts at Christmas. I've heard all the platitudes of because we love Jesus, or because we love others, or because Christmas is all about giving. But it seems a little messed up to me.
Yes, the wisemen brought gifts. They put some real thought into them too. They were gifts for a newborn king. And they were very elegant gifts even today. Gold represents that he is the King of kings and that he is pure. Frankincense represents his priestly nature. That he has come in the order of Melchizedek as King, High priest, and sacrifice. And Myrrh represents his death. This pungent perfume was often used to mask the smell of death on dead bodies. The wisemen brought gifts because it was part of their worship.
But sometimes we obsess over gifts. I heard a lady say the other day that she would not give a gift from Dollar Tree...she was implying that she isn't cheap. There are others who buy extra gifts just in case someone gives them a gift and they didn't have a gift for that person. There are others who obsess over the perfect gift to give someone special that reflects their love for them...ahhh! But really, why do we make Christmas a giant gift exchange? Isn't it all just a marketing tool? Isn't giving gifts to kids just a way to make them "be good".
Don't get me wrong. I am not the Grinch (although I sometimes look like him)! I really like giving gifts. I just don't like giving gifts because I feel obligated to give them. I like to give a gift because I feel someone needs it. I like giving gifts when it surprises someone. And I like giving gifts without social norms dictating when and what that gift is to given.
We can never out give the gift that God gave us. Jesus is the indescribable gift. It is through him that we can have all our sins forgiven. It is through him that we can have a life worth living on this earth...abundant life. It is through him we can have eternal life in heaven where there is no pain, no trouble, no sin, no death. It is through him that we can stand before God justified. It is through him that we can live forever with our God who will wipe away every tear. It is through him that we can be apart of the heavenly worship team that sings praise before God.
But you have to receive God's indescribable gift, Jesus Christ. A gift is only validated when it is accepted.
I praise God for Jesus, the Indescribable gift. May God bless you today as you unwrap his present in your life.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father, It's perfect. Just what I always wanted and needed. Thank you so much for your gift of Jesus. Thank you for saving me from my sins. Thank you for loving me so much. I will worship you, love you, and adore you forever. I look forward to worshiping you in person in heaven. In the precious name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.
14. Immanuel – “…She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel, which means 'God with us.’” Is. 7:14
God with us. Amazing. Jesus is the deity who stepped out of heaven to be with us. To teach us. To guide us. To die for us. To be raised for us. To be with us.
When I think about Immanuel, I am filled with joy and excitement... and worry. I am like a host that has invited someone special to dinner but then I remember my house isn't clean enough for company. My happiness quickly turns to concern as I hurriedly put things away and get out the dust polish. I try to delegate some responsibility to others in the family but they say, "stop worrying he isn't coming to see the house, He's coming to get to know you better."
That's when my real concern kicks in... I worry that I'm not good enough. I worry not about my appearance as much as all the imperfections in my life. How do I get ready now?
My mind goes to John the baptizer. He was crying out, "Make ready, the king is coming. Prepare His way. Make the road straight. Level the hills. Get rid of every imperfection." But I am the imperfection...
...Slow down... just breath...
At Christmas, I am reminded that God came to be with us. I am reminded of how the perfect came to the imperfect. I am reminded that He still wants to get to know me in spite of all my bumps and bruises, my sins and the scars I bare from them. Jesus came to set me free from sin and give me life abundant and free. He came to give me hope.
How do I prepare for the visit of the Son of God? By humbly allowing him to come into my life and help me clean it up.
I praise my God for Immanuel, God with Us, JESUS. May God bless you as you allow Immanuel to come to you today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father, I praise you and lift you up for coming to us, to teach us, to lead us, to provide for us, and to die for us. I thank you for your word that foretold Jesus coming. Help me be ready when he comes again. In Jesus' name, AMEN.
13. I Am – “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58
Perhaps this is one of the most profound statements that Jesus ever made about his identity. It was not lost on those Jewish leaders and Pharisees who wanted to see him dead. Some would have been left with their mouths gapping while others would seethe with anger. Still other Jews would rejoice to here him say this.
Jesus wasn't just saying that he is older than Abraham. He also wasn't just saying that he was more important that Abraham. He was saying that he is God.
The two little words that hold so much meaning is the simple phrase "I AM". In Exodus 3:14, Moses was talking to God at the burning bush. Moses tried every excuse in the book not to go back to Egypt and redeem God's people from slavery. So he wants to know who he should say has sent him to do this. "“I am who I am,” replies God, "Tell them I AM has sent you to them."
Jesus in this simple phrase is stating that he is God. He is telling them that he will redeem him. He is telling him that he is eternal and has always been and always will. He is telling them that he is ever present in their troubles and in their joy. He is telling them that he is the Messiah. Never has two simple words held such powerful meaning.
I praise God that I AM is in my life. May God bless you as you are touched by the hand of I AM today!
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God in heaven above, I thank you for sending your eternal, ever-present Son. You have provided for me all that I need. You are the Great I AM and you are with me always. Thank-you, In Jesus' name, AMEN.
12. Holy Servant – “…and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus..." Acts 4:23-31
Jesus was born a servant king. He did not come to judge or condemn but to seek and save the lost. He did not come in power or in might. He would not receive the honored welcome of a king or visiting dignitary.
Jesus was born in a barn. He was born in the shepherd's town of Bethlehem. His birth was surrounded by animals, strangers, and shepherds. He was born in humble circumstance to parents of modest means. Jesus grew up in the small, backwoods town of Nazareth. He grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man. But this was not the birth of one who came in the power and wrath of God. It was the birth of the Holy Servant of God.
He did not act on his own. His whole ministry was driven by the will of his Father in heaven. Even as he faced the upcoming agony of torture and death on the cross he prayed, "Not my will but thine be done." Jesus came as a holy servant of God Almighty.
Jesus described his mission from God in the parable of the tenants found in Matthew 21:33-46. The landowner (God) sent several messengers (prophets) to try to collect what was due (obedience and worship) but tenants rejected and beat them. So the landowner sent his son (Jesus) whom they rejected, beat, robbed, and killed. Jesus asked the Pharisees and leaders what the landowner would do to the ones who killed his son?
Jesus knew what was going to happen to him. In this round he was coming as a humble servant willing to die. But in round two Jesus will be returning in glory, power, and honor to judge the world.
I praise God for his Holy Servant, Jesus Christ who was willing to humble himself and die for me. May God bless you today as his Holy Servant shines the light in your life so that you too may be a servant of the Most High.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy God; I praise your name for Jesus who came as a servant to do your will. I praise you for his purity and holiness. Lord, help me to be a servant of your will also. Cleanse me daily of all unrighteousness and sin. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.
11. Great High Priest – “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” Heb. 4:14
In the days of the temple/tabernacle, the high priest was able to go into the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the ark of the covenant and pray for the people.
Jesus is our high priest in many ways but I will only take time to mention a few here today. The high priest wore vestments that reminded him of his man job, to intercede for the people. Jesus IS our vestments. Paul says that we are to be "clothed" in Christ. Where the high priest garments reminded him always of the sin of the people, Jesus reminds us of the forgiveness of sins that we have in him.
The high priest only entered the Holy of Holies once a year to sprinkle the ark with blood. Jesus has 24/7 access to the throne of God where his blood cleanses us from all iniquity. That's good, I need my sins forgiven "continually" not just once a year.
Not only does Jesus have the ear of the Father but he actually gave us access to God too. 1. At his death the temple veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies was torn into from top to bottom signaling that it was now okay for us to have access to God. 2. His blood has actually purified us, sanctified us, and justifies us so that we are able to approach our Holy Father in prayer.
Jesus is our High Priest in the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek literally means king of righteousness. Jesus is high priest and King of Kings and Lord of Lords, a royal priest who calls us to his royal priesthood. Melchizedek was the king and high priest of Salem (peace). Jesus is literally our King of Peace. It is because his priesthood that we have peace with God. He took the punishment for all our sins!
I praise God for my High Priest, Jesus Christ. May God bless you today as you are sanctified, justified, and given peace through Jesus, the High Priest.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God Above, I praise your name and thank you for Jesus who is my high priest and my advocate. Thank you for the access that I have to you through him. Thank you for forgiving all my sins and completely eliminating them. You are a great God and it is in the beloved name of Jesus Christ in which I pray, AMEN.
10. Good Shepherd - “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” John 10:11
I love the fact that shepherds were invited to the nativity. Shepherds? Who would invite shepherds? They hang around with sheep all day. They aren't as well educated, sophisticated, or well off as you would think one would be if they were invited to the birth of God's son. But the good shepherd made sure they would be there.
It really makes more sense than you would think. Abraham, Issac and Jacob were most likely shepherds. King David was a shepherd. There is a long line of decedents of Judah who were shepherds.
The shepherds probably spent many hours around the campfire discussing the politics of the day and awaiting the promised Messiah who would rule on the throne of David. They were probably more watchful for the Messiah than any of the religious leaders of the day. They were ready and willing to listen.
Jesus takes care of his sheep like a good shepherd. He protects, provides, guides them, and is willing to die for them... and he did. He knows his sheep and his sheep know his voice and follow him. When one goes astray Jesus goes after them. And he rejoices when that one sheep has been found.
I praise God for Jesus, my good shepherd. May God bless you today as you follow the voice of the good shepherd.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who leads me, feeds me, provides and protects me. Help me to follow his voice always. Give me the wisdom to trust and not stray. And help me to be a good shepherd too. In Jesus' name, Amen.
9. Faithful and True – “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” Rev.19:11
There are few things that last in this world; Relationships change, jobs are terminated, families fall apart, marriages end, cars break down, houses need repair, things wear out, people get hurt and die. Sometimes life isn't pretty.
But Jesus is called the Faithful one. Solomon said, "One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)." The writer of Hebrews reminds us that God said, "I will never leave you, I will never forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)" Isaiah the prophet said, "Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist (Isaiah 11:5). And Paul challenges us by saying "What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? (Romans 3:3). Jesus was faithful in his work and ministry and completed everything the Father had laid out for him to do. He was faithful even to death on the cross. And he is faithful in his promise to us of eternal life for those who believe and receive him.
Not only is Jesus faithful but he is also true. He told his disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)." In our world it is hard to know what is right... people bend statistics and slant the truth. This is nothing new, Pilate sarcastically asked Jesus at his trial, "What is truth". Little did he know that TRUTH was standing right in front of him. Jesus is TRUTH. Jesus stands in stark contrast to what this world tries to pass off as truth.
I praise God for showing me the one who is "Faithful and True." May God bless you today as he shows Him to you too.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father Above; I thank you for Jesus, the one who is both faithful and true. Over and over again you have shown your faithfulness. So often this world clings to half-truths and lies. Help me, Lord, to hang fast to the truth of your word. Thanks for your love. In Jesus' name, AMEN.
8. Deliverer – “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thess.1:10
Yes, our God is full love and patience. He does not want anyone to perish. He gave his Son to pay the price for our sins. Jesus is the ultimate peace treaty between God and man.
The angels proclaimed, "Glory to God in the highest, Peace on earth and good-will to men." They proclaimed the birth of this deliverer of peace and good-will.
But let us not forget that those who reject Jesus will not be spared the wrath of God. John 3:36 states, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them." We do not like to think of God's wrath. We would rather talk about his unconditional love and grace. But It is the escape from that wrath that makes God's love and grace so wonderful... so, well...amazing.
Jesus is our deliverer. He paid the ransom for our sin so that God's wrath would be satisfied once and for all. Jesus delivered the peace treaty between man and God... but it is up to you to accept it or reject it.
I praise God for Jesus Christ, my deliverer. May God bless you today as you come to understand this nativity, God's peace treaty with you.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Gracious Father In Heaven, I praise your name. You delivered the Hebrews from oppression in Egypt. You delivered Daniel from the Lions Den. You delivered Israel from the exhale. Over and over again you have proven to deliver your people. Thank you for delivering me from my sins. In the name of Christ, Jesus my Lord, Amen.
7. Chief Cornerstone – “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone.” Ps. 118:22
You may know that Jesus was raised as the son of a carpenter, Joseph. We learn this in Matthew 13:55 and Mark 6:3 when Jesus returns to his hometown of Nazareth and is asked to read in the synagogue. The Greek word carpenter is tektōn (τέκτων) which is a word used for a master builder who is skilled in the use of various materials such as wood, stone, and masonry. Joseph knew how to build homes, public buildings, and all kinds of things.
As a young man, Jesus had most likely helped Joseph. He probably carried tools and building materials to Joseph and his workers. I imagine that Jesus knew his way around tools and building materials and had a good knowledge of how the trade worked.
This is evident when we read "The Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 7. Jesus concludes the message with a powerful illustration. He says that those who receive his words are like a wiseman who builds his house on the rock... a firm foundation. But those who reject his words are like a foolish man who builds his house on sand... a shifting foundation. Without a good foundation the house will fall.
Jesus was a builder too. He was building God's kingdom. He was not only the builder and architech but he was also the building material... the foundation or cornerstone.
Jesus was no stranger in Nazareth. Joseph may have built some of their homes or helped repair and add on to them and Jesus may have even assisted. When Jesus came home for a visit these people knew he was a hometown boy who had become a teacher (rabbi)... but they didn't really KNOW HIM. His own people rejected him when he tried to share the deeper things of God.
Jesus' teachings are just a part of the foundation of the house we are to build. Jesus himself is the foundation... You can't just go to the buffet line to pick and choose the parts of his teaching you like. You must accept all of it... all of HIM. To reject any part of Jesus is to reject all of Jesus.
Many have rejected him over the years, just like his hometown folks. But God has used this cornerstone to build His house... His kingdom. And those who accept him and build their lives on him are wise and will gain eternal life with Him. Those who reject Him will find that everything... everything will be lost.
I praise God for the chief cornerstone, His Son, Jesus Christ. May God bless you today as you build your life on Jesus and his teachings.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Father in Heaven, I praise you for the foundation of my faith, Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. Thank you for helping me to build my life on Him. I ask that you will help me at to this house daily by following your will and word for my life. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.
6. Bridegroom – “And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matt. 9:15
I have always loved weddings. The bride looks so pretty dressed in white. The groom looks so handsome in his tux. It is such a joyful occasion full of joy and hope for the future.
In several places in the NT Jesus is described as being the groom who will protect, provide, and love his bride. The church, the ekklesia, the called out ones (Christians) are his bride. The relationship was rocky... unfaithful bride... dirty garments... but Christ gave his life for his bride and was raised again so that the Bride could be cleaned... wear white... have joy... and the hope of eternal life. (This story is also echoed in the prophet Hosea)
Oh what a wonderful picture this is! The bride truly loves her redeemer groom. And the Groom loves his bride enough even to die for her. It's a happily ever after story! One of my favorite Hallmark movie endings!!!
I praise God for the bridegroom, Jesus Christ. May you be blessed today as you find this everlasting love in the groom, Jesus Christ.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy God, I praise you for all that you do. I thank you for this beautiful and romantic illustration of Jesus being the Bridegroom who rescues us from sin and redeems us from death. It reminds me of how much you love me. It reminds me of the dowry paid. It reminds me that I have value in your eyes. Holy Father, thank you for allowing me to be apart of this family. In Jesus' precious name I pray, Amen.
5. Beloved Son of God – “And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Matt. 3:17
Jesus is the Son of God. Not Joseph. Joseph was a righteous man who also trusted God after having a dream that reminded him of the sign... Emmanuel was to be born of a virgin... the prophesy was fulfilled in Mary!
There were those in the Bible who accepted Jesus as being the son of Joseph. But when a voice from heaven says on two separate occasions, "This is my Son," who can argue with that!
Not only is he God's Son. But he is also beloved of God. That's important for us to remember. No one wants to see their kid suffer and die. Jesus did just that with all the sins of the world on his shoulders. You see, the cross cost God! It was the ransom he paid for our salvation. Yes, God did it because he loved us so much he was willing to let his Son die for us.
I praise God for his beloved Son whom he gave for us so that we could have life with him. May God bless you as you experience the beloved son of God this Christmas season.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Heavenly Father Above, I want to thank you for sending your Son, your beloved Son. I appreciate your gift so much. You gave a gift that was a part of you... meaningful. No cheap, Dollar Tree Gift from you. You gave your best for me so that I could have life with you! Help me, Father, to share the gift you gave. And help me to give to others in the same way that you give, from the heart filled with love. May every gift I give to you and others cost me. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
4. Bread of Life – “Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’” John 6:35
After Jesus fed the 5,000 people flocked to him. They want his free meal program. Wouldn't you? You never have to work again! Why not make this man king or president? You could really live on free bread and fishsticks.
But Jesus tried to tell them that if they should follow him not because he gives free food but because he can give them life. He is like the life giving Manna that fell from earth in the wilderness except the life he brings is abundant and eternal!
I praise God for Jesus who gives life. May God bless you as you discover Jesus, the bread of life today.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Holy Lord, I am hungry for you. I hunger for your word. I hunger for life. Give me today the bread that I need to live...truly live. And help me to share that bread with others who are starving and may not even know it. I love you, Lord. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
3. Author and Perfecter of Our Faith – “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Heb. 12:2
Jesus endured the horrors of the crucifixion and rose from the grave so that you and I would know that he is the Messiah, the Son of God. He wrote the faith story in his blood and published it so that we would believe.
I praise God that he gave us Jesus to show us the way to have life with him. I know this to be true. I believe that he came to save us and that he is coming again.
May God bless you as you build your faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer Thought: Dear Glorious Father, I praise you for Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. I praise you for the story written on my heart and for your love. Help me to be the man you would have me to be. In Jesus' name, Amen.
2. Advocate – “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” 1 John 2:1
When we think of the baby Jesus laying there on the straw do you ever think of him as being your lawyer? That's exactly what Jesus does. He presents our case to God by saying, "He's good... He's with me. His name is written in my Book of Life."
We are justified by Christ. When we accept Jesus and receive Him in our lives he takes us from a state of sinfulness and unrighteousness to a state of forgiveness and holiness. He makes the guilty of sin (those who accept him) innocent again.
It is nothing that we can do on our own. I can't imagine standing before the creator of all things, the Almighty God, all alone. I am a man of unclean lips, unclean heart, unclean mind. My robes are as filthy rags. But Jesus has cleaned me up, put me in a white robe and stands beside me in front of the Judge of All. How great is that!!!
I praise the name of Jesus, my advocate. May you be blessed today as you consider Jesus Christ and appreciate his birth all the more.
Prayer Thought: Almighty God, You are worthy of honor, glory, power, and praise. You are holy and you are pure. I am unworthy to even stand in your court. So I praise you today for appointing Jesus as my advocate. I thank you for allowing him to take on my sins and die on the cross to justify me before you. I praise you that he rose from the dead so that I could have life eternal. I praise you for Jesus and it is in his name that I come before you in this prayer, AMEN
-Loren H. Lung
Christmas is a busy time of celebrations, programs, dinners, plays, family, shopping, gifts, decorating, and 10,000 other things. It's the time of year that we "celebrate" the birth of Jesus (even though Jesus was not born on December 25). I sometimes wonder what Jesus would think of what we do and why.
But I also wonder if people really know why they celebrate the birth of Jesus. I remember one of the children where I used to work telling her version of "The Christmas Story". There were a lot of missing pieces and some things thrown in about Santa, eating ham on Christmas, and why we hang our stockings. I must admit... the misinformation that is out there is just plain overwhelming.
So this December I though I would remind us all of the real reason for the season by giving you 31 Bible Names for Jesus. Let's get started!
1. Alpha and Omega – “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Rev. 22:13
In the last chapter of the Revelation of Christ, Jesus has a closing epilogue for all who listen. In it he says that he is the Alpha and the Omega.
This typically is a term that has been used to describe God. It refers to his eternal nature. God has always been and always will be. It is this eternal nature that knew the right time, "the fulness of time", for him to send His Son Jesus Christ into the world.
In this title, Jesus identifies himself with God. He is a part of the God-head, the trinity, Three-in-One! It also goes hand in hand with John 1:1 - In the beginning he was with God and Is God. To us mere mortals it is hard to comprehend and explain. How can our limited, temporal minds comprehend the nature of what is in the spiritual realm?
It also identifies him as being eternal, Jesus was there in the beginning of creation and taking a part in the creation of all things and especially the beginning of man. Not only was he there in the beginning but he also "will be with us to the very end of the age."
I praise the name of Jesus Christ, The Alpha and The Omega!
Prayer Thought: Dear God in heaven, We praise your name for this time of year when we can celebrate the gift of Jesus Christ, your Son, and our Redeemer. You are the eternal God. And Jesus is your eternal gift to us. Please bless us and remind us throughout the season of Christmas that Jesus is the reason for the season. In Jesus' name, AMEN
-Loren H. Lung
I cannot think of one book that introduces the main character in just four words. How powerful and eloquent an introduction. The first verse says so much about God. It tells us that God is eternal. It tells of of His power. It tells of His creative nature And it tells of His intellect.
"In the beginning..." tells us of God's eternal nature. He was from the very beginning. He was before time...in fact, we learn later in this chapter that he created time. This is such a massive concept for us as humans. We were created in time. We have only known the rule of time. We have no real understanding of what it means to eternal so we say things like "that means to live forever" or "It means an endless number of days". But this does not really describe something that is eternal. So it leaves us praising God for his eternal nature.
"...God created..." tells us that He is a benevolent God. He made something out of nothing. He did not make it shoddy or weak. In fact, the Bible tells us that He looked it over and pronounced it "good". A creative God does not build something just to destroy it. A creative God builds something good for a purpose. So it leaves us praising God for his goodness.
"...the heavens and the earth..." tells us two things. First, it tells us that God is powerful. He literally spoke things into being and they were created. I like to think of myself as a creative person but everything I make is put together from available resources. I can make something out of paper with the use of pens, glue, and scissors but only God can create something out of nothing.
The second thing it tells of us is of his massive intellect. The mathematical equations that it took to put the earth in orbit at just the right distance from the sun so that we would be too hot or too cold are absolutely amazing. The rotation and the tilt of the earth all figure in to making life possible on this planet. I could go on and on.
There are those that want to tell you that it happened by random chance but if you figure all the random variables into the equation that the odds of life existing by chance are mathematically impossible.
The other day I gave each child in my class a die. I told the children to roll their die just once. I asked each one of the what the number was on their die. Then I told them to try and roll the same number again. They were to continue only as long as they got the same number. A few kids got their number to come up twice. Only one child got it to come up three times. Now imagine trying to get that same number to come up a hundred times, a thousand times, a million times, a billion times, a trillion times... keep going. The mathematic equation for life happening on earth by chance is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000! The only way for that to happen is if something or someone stacked the deck. Guess what. GOD DID! And this leaves us praising God for his power and in intellect.
Genesis 1:1 uses simple words with such a profound meaning. C.S. Lewis once said, “Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” The only word that comes to mind when I read this verse is AWESOME.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, You are truly awesome. You take my breath away. To think that you spoke from eternity the words that created the heavens and the earth and it came into being by your great power and intellect is more than my mind can comprehend. I praise you for creating this world and mankind for a purpose. I thank you for being my God and I beg the question that David asked in Psalm 8, "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" Thank you, God for loving me and caring for me and thinking of me. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die for me. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship (Ro 12:1 NIV)
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Ro 12:1 KJV)
Perhaps this is the most pivotal verse in Romans. It is the transition from background into application. And when it comes to studying the word I am really into asking the question, “How does this apply to my life.” So let’s take a look at this one little verse and see the beautiful picture it paints and application for our life today.
THEREFORE: Whenever you see the word “Therefore” in a verse you must ask the question, “What is it there for?” To find out the answer we look at two things: 1. The context of the writing or what has the writer been trying to convey. 2. The content of the statement itself.
Paul has been addressing the churches at Rome. The church was started by Jews. As they shared the good news message of Jesus Christ, Gentiles accepted Jesus and became a part of the church. Somewhere around 49 AD, Claudius expelled the Jews from the city of Rome. The church was left for the Gentiles to carry on and they did. In 54 AD, Claudius died. Afterwards, the Jews were gradually allowed back in Rome. But this caused some tension in the church as the Jewish Christians came back.
Paul writes the book of Romans sometime around 56 AD. He sends his letter to Rome with Phoebe who is a deaconess and helper to Paul.
Paul reminds both the Gentile Christians and the Jewish Christians of the background and common bond. He tells them that there is difference between Jew and Gentile – both the Jew and the Gentile are lost in sin and unable to save their selves. Both the Jew and the Gentile struggle with sin nature verses the righteousness of God. Both the Jew and the Gentile are saved by grace of God and receive Jesus by faith. Both the Jew and the Gentile are made righteous by God – justification and sanctified.
In the verse, Paul says “in view of God’s mercy”. God has saved both Jew and Gentile. God has done this for a purpose…so then, let us get on to it!
URGE: Looking at the various translations you can see different words used for this idea: beg, beseech, encourage, and admonish. The Greek word Paul uses is parakaleó which is used as a strong exhortation with deep emotion. Paul is basically saying that because of this common bond of God’s grace I implore you to do as I say.
BROTHERS AND SISTERS: Too many people get caught up in this gender inclusive issue here. Paul uses the Greek word adelphos which literally means brethren or brothers. But the word is a compound word from alpha which is a prefix indicating “of the same” and delphus meaning “womb.” The idea is a shared origin or commonality. Paul uses it in the larger sense of the Christian brotherhood.
Today we call our fellow Christians brothers and sisters. We use this rather superficially. But Paul is sharing a deeper connection. It is the common bond of Jesus Christ that holds us all together. It does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free because we are all of the family of God. This is a powerful thought to keep in mind the next time you hold a grudge against a fellow Christian.
In this case, the translation of adelphos as brothers and sisters does fit perfectly in spite of the fact that it is not a literal translation.
IN VIEW OF GOD’S MERCY: Paul is directing the attention where it needs to be. If it weren’t for God’s mercy we would be lost. Other translations may use grace or compassion here. The idea is that God was moved to action. He loves man so much (Jn 3:16) that he could not idly stand by and watch us perish. Like a mother who cares for her child’s safety puts herself in danger so the child will be safe. It is beyond logic. Logically, we are sinners who deserve to die. But God’s mercy goes beyond the logic of man. He moved! His Son died for our sins. Paul urges us by this common cord of the mercy of God to do as he says. This says so much about God’s unconditional love.
PRESENT: Another word pops off the page to me. Paristémi is the Greek word that Paul uses to paint this picture of an Old Testament sacrifice. The word literally means to stand close beside. The idea is as someone brings there sacrifice or offering to the tabernacle. They would stand beside the animal or offering.
Almost as important as the offering is the attitude that we have with giving the offering. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:21-25, “…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Cain presented his offering in Genesis 4. His brother, Abel, also presented his offering. But Cain’s offering was rejected. God said, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
When we present our lives as a living sacrifice it is to be a given freely without resentment, without guilt, and with a proper attitude.
LIVING SACRIFICE: This sacrifice of ours is to be living. Paul is basically saying that everything we do, everything we own, everything we say, everything we think, is to be a sacrifice for God. Every breath that we breathe is an experience of the gift of life, abundant life, and eternal life that God has given to us. We are to give it back to him. Jesus gave his life for us so that we could present our life back to God.
The blood sacrifices of the Old Testament were sacred. It was to be done in a prescribed manner and sacrificial animal was to be perfect. Every part of the animal was presented to God. There is even a Jewish writing that talks about the cries of the sacrificed animal were a song to God.
Another word for sacrifice is offering. What we bring to God is what we offer to him. We should never offer him anything that does not cost us (2 Samuel 24:24). It also should not be something cheap or given half-heartedly. God gave his Son. Jesus did not give a partial sacrifice… he gave his all and suffered for us. What else can we offer God than our whole life without reservation or excuse?
Ananias and Sapphira laid their offering at the feet of Peter (Acts 5). It wasn’t that the gift wasn’t of value. But Ananias and Sapphira did not give all. They held back a portion for themselves and lied about it. The result is that both dropped dead.
ACCEPTABLE: It is not only the gift that is important. The priest presenting the offering had a prescribed method that God had laid out in the book of Leviticus. Both the ritual and the animal had to be according to the law. (Leviticus 1:3, 9). If he used the proper method with the right attitude of service the gift would be accepted. This was true of every offering and sacrifice.
When Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10) offered “strange fire” on the altar of incense they were consumed by fire from the Lord. Aaron was so devastated that he wanted to be removed from service as the High Priest.
Our living sacrifice must be presented in a way to God that is both “holy and acceptable”.
SERVICE / WORSHIP: The Greek word latreia is often interpreted several ways (NIV - true and proper worship. NASB - spiritual service of worship. KJV - your reasonable service. CEB - appropriate priestly service). This has cause much confusion over the years.
Latreia is a word that refers to "render sacred service" as a priest or Levi would perform in the temple or tabernacle. The word occurs five times in the NT (Jn 16:2; Ro 9:4, 12:1; Heb 9:1,6). Paul uses the idea to show us the solemnness of the sacred service that we perform as we present our bodies as a living sacrafice.
Now if you haven’t noticed. Paul has painted a beautiful picture of the Old Testament sacrifice. In the picture you play three roles: the one presenting, the one sacrificed, and he one doing the sacrifice. This is a perfect reflection of what the Hebrew writer says about Jesus as our sacrifice for sin. Jesus is the presenter of the sacrifice, the sacrifice, and the high priest. Isn’t that a beautiful picture?
The application for us as Christians is very clear. Often times in the church we spend more time arguing and fussing with each other over means and methods and petty stuff. We often focus on our differences rather than what we have in common. We are brothers and sisters in Christ with a common cord of the love, mercy, and grace of God. We all have faith in Jesus. So let’s move forward together and get with it.
The Roman church is not unlike so many out there today. When we focus on our difference and all paddle in different directions we go in circles and accomplish nothing. But when we put aside our differences and present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God we can get busy working together and we can accomplish much in God’s kingdom.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear God, I want to thank you for your sweet mercy and grace. I thank you for Jesus who is the sacrifice for my sins. Lord, I want to be a living sacrifice. Help me to present my whole being to you with the right attitude. I ask also that you help me to work together with my brothers and sisters in Christ so that we can accomplish your work and your will. I pray this in the name of Jesus Christ. AMEN.
We are blessed to have many children at Beaver Creek Christian Church. I want to thank all the parents, grandparents, relatives, and friends who bring their children and the neighborhood children to church.
Jesus said, "Let the little children come unto me and do not hinder them for of such is the kingdom of heaven." He then went on to say, "Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mt 19:13-15; Mk 10:13-16; Lk 18:15-17)
There are several implications that this passage has for us. The first thing is that we should help all children have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Teaching children is an important part of the church. After all, Proverbs 22:6 says, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it." We often look at this as a promise from God that the kids will "be good" when they grow up. But this verse is really an obligation for us to help kids develop a relationship with the Lord and equip them with the tools they need to become mature in the faith and knowledge of the Son of God and to attain the full measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-16). We are good at introducing children to Jesus. But we sometimes lack in giving them the tools the need to build a lasting and growing relationship with Jesus. We need to come along beside them and walk with them in this child-like faith to help them grow.
The second implication is that we adults need to become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. Of course, the obvious applications is that we need to have a simple child-like trust and faith when we come to Jesus. And we often start off our relationship with Jesus like this. But as we "mature" in our faith we sometimes become crusty old curmudgeons! I believe we need to maintain that child-like faith. Children love to play, run, climb, jump, hang upside-down, bend the rules, laugh, sing, clap, dance, and enjoy life. When was the last time you had fun in your faith? I can picture Jesus standing at the door asking, "Can Billy come out to play?" Perhaps if we Christians put a bit more joy in our relationship with Jesus more people would want to join us on the journey.
These are some powerful lessons for us out of a few short verses. I am sure you can think of some more applications.
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, I want to thank you for children. Thank you for entrusting us to their spiritual care as well as their physical care. Bless the children, Lord, and bless their parents. Help us to bring these children to a lasting relationship with Jesus Christ and to equip them with the tools to overcome any obstacle than comes their way. And help us, Father, not to be too serious and dignified that we can't come out to play. In Jesus' name, Amen.
What if one word could change your life? We have all seen those posters with inspirational words on them: ENCOURAGE, TEAMWORK, BELIEVE, SUCCESS, HOPE, LOVE, DREAM, FAMILY, FAITH, IMAGINE, etc.
In 1999, Three business men wrote a book called, "One Word That Could Change Your Life." The idea is that you pick a word to drive your life for the year... like a theme. No endless list of goals and objectives, no meetings or itineraries... just one word.
In John 1:1-18, we read about the word. It is logos in Koine Greek of the New Testament. Logos is the root from which the word English word, logic is derived. It only makes sense that real logic comes from heaven. Jesus is real wisdom not "hollow words and deceptive and empty philosophy" (CL 2:8)
John reveals that this word was with God in the beginning. How meaningful it must of been for the Hebrew men and women to hear John echoing the words from Genesis 1:1 when he says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind." God created life with his spoken word. John connects that theme in that fact in Jesus was the life that brings light to all mankind.
When Jesus came, it had been over 400 years since a spoken word had come from God through the prophets. There were those who were hungry and waiting for the Word of God. The Word, Jesus, was better than that the prophets shared... Jesus was the word in the flesh (JN 1:14).
Not everyone accepted the Word. Busy little town of Bethlehem found little room for a pregnant woman about to give birth. King Herod was not excited when he heard that the Word was to be born, "King of the Jews." And all of Jerusalem was troubled with him.
"The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him". (JN 1:9-11)
There are many people today who have no room in their lives for Jesus. Like a customer in the restaurant telling the waitress they are too full for dessert, they tell others, "NO GOD, I have no room for that in my life." But Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 both say, "The fool in his heart says there is no God."
Jesus is the word that changes lives. The Magi were so excited about the Word that they traveled a long distance to see him. The shepherds received news about the Word from angels and when they found him they could not contain their joy and went sharing the Word with all who they could find. The New Testament is filled with people who were changed when they encountered and accepted the living Word, Jesus Christ.
And the Word continues to change lives today. There are many people who are living by faith in the Word. They are excited about what he is doing and they are sharing the Word with others.
"Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God." (JN 1:12-13)
I am a life that was changed by the Word. Jesus has given me meaning a purpose. He has helped me to accomplish things in my life and overcome obstacles that would stop others in the tracks. My favorite passage is 1 John 3:1 where it says, "Behold what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!..." God has made me his child and lavished his love on me! I love that word "lavished". Grace is God lavishing his love on me even when I don't deserve it.
The truth of the matter is there is only one word that can really change your life. All those other words are pointless and meaningless without Jesus. I want to invite you to be lavished in God's love and grace today. It's time for you to accept the Word that will give light and life to your life.
Prayer Thought: Dear Father, Thank you for the Word that gives light and life. Thank you for the love that you lavish on me everyday because of the Word, Jesus Christ. It is in his name that I pray to you today. Amen.
"AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS THAT EVERYONE WHO IS LEFT OF ALL NATIONS WHICH CAME AGAINST JERUSALEM SHALL GO UP FROM YEAR TO YEAR TO WORSHIP THE KING, THE LORD OF HOSTS, AND TO KEEP THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES." ZECHARIAH 14:16
A rabbit hole is an expression that is used when studying. You may be researching down one area and then find yourself branching off into other areas. Sometimes it is easy to get distracted from your main objective and end up in a whole new place.
This happened to me yesterday. I was studying Nehemiah 7-9 and about the Feast of Tabernacles. I ran across an interesting article that had to do with Jesus birth in connection with the Feast of Tabernacles. The article is by a Messianic Jew who figured the birth of Jesus by chasing down clues in the Bible. He found clues to the birth of John the Baptist based on the months of service of the priest division in which Zechariah belonged. Then he showed how that connected to Jesus' birth 6 months later.
He stated that John would have been born on the Passover, the fifteenth day of the first month (Nisan). The Passover is to this day celebrated in the early spring. The Bible said that John would come in the spirit of Elijah (Ma 4:5; Lk 1:17; Mt 17:10-13). A part of the Passover celebration has families setting a place for the spirit of Elijah. (Interesting)
According to his research, Jesus would have been born six months later, in the fall, during the Sabbath or seventh month (Tishri). This is one of the most holy months on the Jewish calendar. The word Sabbath means rest. Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mt 11:28). (interesting!)
The most sacred day of the month is the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, which happens on the 10th day of the month of Tishri. During the daily activities two goats would be brought out for the people, one would be a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people, the other is the "scapegoat" which is released into the wilderness to carry the sins of the people (Le 16). Jesus would become the our atonement for sins (Ro 3:25; He 2:17). (very interesting!)
According to his research, Jesus would have been born in the middle of the month on the 15 day. This is the start of Rosh Hashanah or the feast of the Tabernacles or Sukkot, which is a celebration of God’s provision to the Hebrews as they wandered in the wilderness. There is a dimension of time in this celebration as it looks at God’s provision in the past, present, and future. It points to God’s ultimate provision in the messiah to come. (Very Interesting!!!)
Moses was the messianic figure that brought the Hebrews out of the wilderness to the promised land. Jesus is the messiah that brought us out of the wilderness of our sins into salvation with an eternal home. (De 18:15-19; He 3:1-6). (very interesting indeed!)
The feast of Tabernacles is also called the feast of the harvest or ingathering. Jesus talks many times about the harvest in spiritual terms… We are the fruit of the harvest. The harvest is the time of reckoning… the judgement (Mt 13; 25:31-46; Re 14:14-20, etc.) Jesus even tells his disciples to “Pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send more workers”. Jesus brings new meaning to the harvest and the urgency of more workers in bring people to salvation. It also reminds us that Jesus will be coming soon for the final ingathering. (very, very interesting!)
In 959 BC Solomon's Temple was dedicated to the Lord (1 Kings 8:2) during the Feast of Tabernacles. In 538 BC priest returned to Jerusalem from Babylon and began sacrificing to the Lord during the Feast of the Tabernacles even before the foundation was laid. Nehemiah finished building the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BC and the Jews shut themselves up in their new walls and celebrated the Feast of the Tabernacles together with more joy than even in Joshua’s day (Ne 8:17). Jesus tore the vail of the temple between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place to signal that he paid the price so the we could have direct access to God (He 10). (Incredibly interesting!)
If indeed Jesus was born on the 15 than he would have been circumcised on the eighth day which is the 22 day of Tishri and the last day of the Feast of the Tabernacles. The last day is called Simchat Torah means "Rejoicing in the Torah. The Torah is the first five books of the Bible, God’s Word. The day is celebrated thanking God for his Word and reading the Torah . John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is the Word of God. (OVERWHELMINGLY INTERESTING!)
Now I know that many of you will say this is all speculation and coincidence. But God is very big into symbolism and parable. If Jesus was really born in the fall (this year Oct 16-23) than it brings a fresh dimension to the birth of Christ and an appreciation to the Feast of Tabernacles.
Hope you enjoyed my rabbit hole.
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, Maker of Heaven and Earth. You have made the signs of times and the seasons. I praise you for your Son Jesus who is my atonement for my sin. I celebrate the provisions of life and the hope of eternal life with you, my God. In Jesus' name, Amen. -Loren Lung
Integrity is a rare commodity. Daniel, Hanniah, Mishael, and Azariah show us three examples of integrity in Daniel. (DA 1:4;1 PE 2:11)
Daniel and his three friends refuse to eat from the King’s table . (DA 1; JE 1:4-10, 17-19) Like Daniel, we need to refuse to eat the world’s diet.
Hanniah, Mishael, and Azariah refuse to worship the image of Nebuchadnezzar. (DA 3: EX 20:3-6) Like Hanniah, Mishael, and Azariah we need to stand up for God.
Daniel refuses to pray to anyone but God. (DA 6)
Daniel 9 gives us a glimpse into the coming and second coming of the “anointed one”, the Messiah. He is coming to take us home to heaven. We need to be men and women of integrity.
Reading This Week: The Story (chapter 19)
The Return Home (Chapter 19) -Ezra
Text: Ezra 1-6, Haggai 1-2, Zechariah 1, 8
Today (Sunday) Ezra 1-2
Monday Ezra 3-4
Tuesday Ezra 5-6
Wednesday Haggai 1
Thursday Haggai 2
Friday Zechariah 1
Saturday Zechariah 8
Memorize Jeremiah 29:11
1 John 1:5 – “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
I had a rough night and didn’t sleep well all night. I didn’t feel well when I woke this morning. I didn’t want to get out of bed let alone even think about walking or exercising.
I felt the need for prayer but the words were illusive and I didn’t even know where to begin. I drug myself to the coffee pot and hastily made a cup of Joe. My mind wasn’t in it when I shaved and I paid the price with a little nick below my chin. It was almost time to go to the preacher’s meeting.
God has a way of putting things in perspective. While I was at the meeting, the sun started coming in the window. At first, I was a little annoyed that the sun was in my eyes and I moved over a bit. But the sunlight seemed to follow me and was again in my eyes. So I looked up and the stain glass window was aglow. The image seemed to reach out to me. The colors were so vivid and alive. It was a picture of Jesus holding a lamb. And it was awesome.
Suddenly, things were in perspective. Jesus, the Great Shepherd, was carrying a lamb. His other sheep were gathered around him. The lamb, who was to young and weak to follow on his own, was being carried. I knew then who was really carrying my load. Jesus doesn’t just have my back. He is willing to carry me.
Do you know how often we let little things become stressful and hinder our walk and our testimony. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, The Great Physician, and Mighty Counselor. What more do we need?
Lyrics: H. J. Zelley
Music: George H. Cook
Walking in sunlight all of my journey
Over the mountains, through the deep vale;
Jesus has said, “I’ll never forsake thee,”
Promise divine that never can fail.
Heavenly sunlight, Heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine;
Hallelujah! I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.
Shadows around me, shadows above me,
Never conceal my Savior and Guide;
He is the light, in Him is no darkness;
Ever I’m walking close to His side.
Heavenly sunlight, Heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine;
Hallelujah! I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.
In the bright sunlight, ever rejoicing,
Pressing my way to mansions above;
Singing His praises, gladly I’m walking,
Walking in sunlight, sunlight of love.
Heavenly sunlight, Heavenly sunlight,
Flooding my soul with glory divine;
Hallelujah! I am rejoicing,
Singing His praises, Jesus is mine.
Prayer Thought: Dear God, Everlasting Father, Creator of all things. I am really sorry for the times I have let distractions, stress, and frustrations get in the way of doing what I should. I thank you for carrying me and caring for me. Thank you for the message written very clearly and delivered in brilliant color. Help me to trust you in all things. I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus, Amen.
Acts 2:42 –They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
I have to admit that I get a bit upset when I see an old church building converted into a fitness club, a brewpub, or restaurant. It’s not that there is anything holy or sacred about the building. It’s just a building… a piece of real estate where people used to gather to worship God.
I think about the songs of praise and worship that were raised to God in those buildings. I think about the people who sang them and the preachers who preached in the pulpit long since removed to make way for a salad bar or beer tap.
These building had a purpose that they fulfilled and have now been re-purposed for some other use. I may not always care for how they are now being used but that is not my concern.
I am seeing a lot of churches that were once thriving and full now struggling to keep the doors open. My aunt was talking about how few there are attending their church. They barely raise enough money to pay the preacher and the light bill. The sad news is that they announced that if things keep going they will only survive another two years. I’m sure that sucked the joy out of any ambition that they had left in them.
Some people think that churches are dying because of the changing times. Some say that it is because people don’t have time for church. There are those who think there is no value in church. Some say that the church has outlived it’s purpose and needs to die.
I don’t believe any of that. I believe that the church is as relevant today as it was in the beginning when it started on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2). I just believe that the message and the purpose has been lost and convoluted. We are good at coming together for an hour a week to worship. But we are missing the rest of the mission. The church has lost it’s value because it focused on the building and not the mission.
No, the building isn’t special. It is the people. They are Christ’s Ekklesia. They are the ones who are called out. They were called out by Jesus for a mission. The mission is to worship, fellowship, discipleship, evangelize, and outreach. We were not called out to build buildings or care for property. We were called to take care of people.
There are churches that are thriving. There are churches that are growing. And there are churches that are doing incredible things in the name of the Lord. They don’t always meet in the traditional building. Sometimes they meet in outdoor pavilions, store-fronts, or even barns. Some of these churches build buildings that suit their purpose that don’t even look like the traditional church building.
My sister commented that my parent’s church doesn’t look like a church. It looks more like a movie theater or office complex. To their credit, they don’t act much like a traditional church either. Their bulletin is full of ministry opportunities. They meet in homes for growth groups. There are so many activities and opportunities during the week that the worship team actually has to have a special practice room just to get ready for Sunday because the auditorium is constantly being used.
But it’s not just about being busy and active and full. The people have opportunities to become disciples and grow in their faith, opportunities to get involved, opportunities to minister to the needs of others, and even opportunities to take missions trips to foreign countries. They freely share their faith with others. They don’t try to win them to the church but to help them build a loving relationship with Jesus Christ that inspires them to keep growing spiritually.
I believe in the church. I believe in God’s people. I believe it is time that we get serious and get back to the mission that we were given.
Prayer Thought: Oh Holy God, We praise you for who you. We thank you for your goodness. We worship you. Father, you have called us out and given us a purpose to our lives. We ask you to stir the spirit within us so that we may be united as we work together in love to fulfill this mission. Thank you, Lord. I pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.
Why do we do the things we do as Christians? The answer is simple, we do them to point people to the Lord Jesus Christ and glorify God.
Unfortunately we are also human and prone to making mistakes. Inadvertently, instead of pointing people to Jesus we sometimes show them our selfishness, pride, sins, weakness, anger, jealousy, and other things that just aren't pretty to see. Instead of drawing people to a relationship with Jesus we drive them away.
Sometimes even the good things can distracts from the love and grace of Jesus. For instance, Instead of showing them to Christ we point people to the church or the many activities we have going on there. We point people to our good works and our “friendly, family atmosphere”. We point them to programs and worship styles rather than a saving relationship with Jesus. All these things are good but we need to bring people to Jesus, not programs, activities, and ministries.
Sometimes we have even been guilty of asking people to accept Jesus as their savior so they will be saved from the punishment of sin. It sounds like a good reason - Fire insurance…”get out of jail free” card. But the problem is they don’t have an interest in Jesus so their relationship never grows beyond their baptism. We need to emphasis that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He died to take away your sins because he wants a personal relationship with you.
In his book, God is the Gospel, John Piper wrote, “The critical question for our generation, and for every generation, is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and with no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ was not there?”
Ouch! That is a painful question to ponder if you are honest with yourself.
I once had a professor at Johnson University that told us, “You keep them with what you catch them with.” I may not have fully understood then but I do now. If you catch them with fun things when the fun is over they will leave. If you catch them with food, personalities, programs, gimmicks, or fascinating lessons, etc., they will leave when it’s all over. You keep people by inviting them to a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
The challenge is to make sure everything points to Jesus. Growth in our walk with the Lord happens when we have a desire to please Jesus and a hunger and thirst for Him. Ministry happens when we have a passion for Jesus and compassion for others.
There was a person who saw the face of Jesus everywhere. She saw the face of Jesus in the wood grain pattern of the church door. She saw the face of Jesus in the shape of a potato chip. She saw the face of Jesus reflected in the glistening light of a pond. She even saw the face of Jesus in the spots on a cow! Many people though she was a bit odd or even crazy. But when you got to know Mary you understood that she saw Jesus everywhere because she loved him so much and was looking for Him in everything around her.
Romans 1:20 states, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
Have you seen Jesus lately? Are you pointing others to Him?
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for your mighty works of creation. These beautiful things point me to Jesus and remind me daily of your love and grace for me. Please help me to keep pointing others to Jesus too. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Loren Lung, minister
“Why do we need by-laws? I thought we were a Bible church. If we go by the Bible why do we need by-laws?”
These are all good questions and some that have been brought up recently as the leadership began looking at revisions for the by-laws.
First of all, let me emphasize the fact that we are a church that believes and follows the teaching of Jesus Christ and the Bible. The Bible is our ultimate guide in doctrine, principle, and procedure. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.“
Every incorporated body by law must have a constitution and by-laws that outlines the purpose, principles, procedures, and government of that body. These are there for legal protection of the organization, it’s leaders, and it’s membership.
Because the by-laws are for legal purposes they should be reviewed and updated to make sure that we are doing what we say and saying what do.
The review of the by-laws has been discussed by the board for the last couple of years. Last year the board appointed a committee to look over and review the by-laws to see if there were weaknesses and inconsistencies with how the church functions so that we can better lead and protect the Church and the membership.
One of the changes that has been suggested addresses the concerns above. It reads, “We accept the Bible as the inerrant, inspired Word of God and as the ultimate authority in matters of faith, doctrine and Christian living. These bylaws and any amendments made hereto shall be the governing documents of this Church but they should always be interpreted and applied in conformity with the Bible.” Scripture references have also been added through the by-laws.
It is our desire that you will prayerfully read over the amendments and changes to the by-laws. There will be a congregational meeting following the morning worship service on February 1st. We will briefly go over the changes and then have a question and answer time. The vote on the by-law changes will be on February 15th.
If you are an active and eligible member of Beaver Creek Christian Church you may vote at the election. If you are not going to be in town for the election, please contact one of the elders who will arrange for an absentee ballot.
Prayer Thought: Dear Father in Heaven, We praise you and lift you up. We thank your for this congregation of believers. We want to serve you and live for you. Help us to live up the the scriptures. Thank you for Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes through his sacrifice on the cross. Thank you for your blessings. In Jesus' name, Amen
Once a year the president of United States of America gets up in front of a joint session of congress and gives “The State of the Union Address”. It is televised all over the world and preempts most of the network programing.
In the address, he shares the condition and issues facing the country, what has been done during the past year, and what he hopes will be accomplished in the coming year. For some people the address is like a “pep-talk” for the country and yet some people think it is a total waste of time and money.
But let me ask you this. What if Jesus where to come and talk to us about the condition of his church, what we have or have not accomplished in the past year, and what he wants us to accomplish this year? What would he say to our ministry teams, our board, our preacher, and to you personally?
How would you react? What demands would be put on you for your time, your finances, or talents and abilities? Would he ask you to be more involved in helping others? Would he ask you to attend church a little more regularly? What about sharing your faith a little more enthusiastically?
Jesus did just that to seven churches in the book of Revelation (ch. 2, 3). For some of the people he gave praise and for others they received a scathing report in which he warned them to do better.
To the church in Laodicea the report was really bad. He told them that they’re service was unpalatable! He said that even they thought they were rich that they were wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked. But he told them that because he loved them he was disciplining them. And that they should repent.
After each of the reports he added, “Let him who has ears hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” It reminds me of what my mother used to say when she was trying to make a point, “LISTEN UP AND LISTEN GOOD!”
I don’t know what Jesus would say to Beaver Creek Christian Church. There are good, generous, loving, and caring people who work hard for the kingdom in our church. But just like in anything, there is room for improvement.
Paul begged the good brothers and sisters of the church at Rome to be living sacrifices for God. He told them not to be conformed to the world but transformed by God’s renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:1-2).
My prayer for Beaver Creek Christian Church for 2015 is that we let Jesus lead us to new areas of service and ministry for his kingdom.
Prayer Thought: Dear God, Thank you for the congregation at BCCC. I want to lift up the church to you and ask for your blessings about everyone there. I ask that you will help us to be the church you have called us to be. Help us put aside indifference in order to serve you and work in your kingdom. You are our awesome God. Remind us that it is your name on the door. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 - There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens...
It was hard enough for me to watch the trucks full of Christmas trees heading out to parts unknown. Then I had to start planning the holiday season on the church calendar. When I had gone to bed last night I had planned on going though some Christmas songs this morning for the choir to start preparing. But this morning there is about 2 inches of snow on the ground. WHAT HAPPENED TO AUTUMN?
It's All-Saint's Day for the Catholics; November 1st. And the first winter storm of the season is passing through. It's not even officially winter!
Seasons come and go. They often pass faster than we wish. That is especially true when we watch our children growing up...then our grandchildren... and so on. The days go by so fast.
That is why it is so important to make a decision for the Lord and to live for him each day. We may think we have all the time in the world. The invitation is always open but we are not even promised the next hour!
I am not selling fire insurance. I am offering you more time... eternal life with our Lord, Jesus Christ. And everyone can use a bit more time!!!
Prayer Thought: Dear God, Where does the time go. One day we are children longingly looking forward to growing up. The next day we are older adults remembering the carefree days of our youth. To you a day is like a thousand years and thousand years is like a day. But to us life is a precious struggle for each moment. Help us to release the bounds of time and to embrace the eternal nature of your majesty. Help us to boldly shed the temporal and clothe ourselves in the spiritual. You are our God. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Ecclesiastes 11:4 - Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
Fall weather came in quickly this week. Br-r-r-r! Just when I was getting back into the routine of daily exercise the temperature has to drop and the sky has to be so overcast.
But that, for me, is just an excuse. I have exercised in the cold, in the rain, in the snow, and even in the gloom. Not only that but I have exercise equipment in my basement. I also have a series of videos on DVD that I could use to workout. Isn't it funny how we sometimes look for an excuse not to do the things we don't really want to do!
The writer of Ecclesiastes sees right through our excuses. He tells us not to hesitate and not to let our hand be idle. Keep at it and you will work through it.
Sometimes we make excuses when it comes to God. It may be in our attendance at church or Bible study. It might even be in putting to work that which we have learned. It might be that we hesitate in telling someone about Jesus and make an excuse about "the timing wasn't right." We even make excuses when it comes to reading the Bible and praying.
In Luke 14, Jesus tells the parable about the great banquet and the invitation. People who were invited began making excuses. And Jesus concluded the story by saying "not one of those invited will taste of my banquet."
It's time to stop making excuses. I'm going to go exercise.
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for all the opportunities that you have given me. Help me to make the most of them and to stop making excuses. Who am I fooling anyway. You are the God who sees my heart. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Romans 15:2 - Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) used to sing a song entitled, "Don't Bring Me Down". I must admit that I used to think they were singing, "Don't bring me down, Bruce." And I wondered what Bruce had done to get them so frustrated, especially since the song is about a girl who is acting all uppity. The real word is "Grroosss".
Isn't it funny how easy it is for people to bring other people down. The other day, I asked someone how they were feeling and then commented that they didn't look to good. I meant it out of concern since the fellow has been having some health problems. Although I didn't mean to do it I brought him down and made him feel even worse (Sorry, friend). "Don't bring me down, Grroosss!"
Then the other day someone did something to me. I was feeling really good about a song I sang in church a few weeks back because it had a great message. I will be the first to admit that my singing and guitar playing are not the best. But someone told me that I should stick to what I do best. Now I am afraid to do anything because I am not really sure what I do best. "Don't bring me down, Grroosss!"
We went through a beautiful revival with a speaker who challenged us to get off the pews and get out in the streets. Unfortuantely, as I high as I was feeling about the power of that revival there are some who have chosen to fuss and complain about it. "Don't bring me down, Grroosss!"
Sometimes we do mean it to hurt. We say something hasty or out of sorts and then it's too late to take it back. Feelings are hurt and that can cause bitterness and mistrust. "Don't bring me down, Grroosss!"
We are supposed to be working together in the kingdom to bring others to Christ and His glory. But often we are distracted by petty bickering and ill feelings towards others. Some times it's just sharing our opinion about something we should keep to ourselves. "Don't bring me down, Grroosss!"
This should not be so. The Bible tells us over and over again to be humble and to build others up. Don't let your pride get in the way and bring someone down.
Let's work to build each other up!
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, Please fill my mouth with worthy stuff and nudge me when I've said enough. I want to honor you with my words. I pray that you will help me to build others up instead of tearing them down. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Ephesians 1:17-21 – I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
Our congregation is trying to make that awkward move to include a praise song or two into our traditional worship service. This is a good thing. It appeals to the younger people in our congregation and ministers to us in a different way. It is another means to worship and praise God.
I must admit that I really like praise and worship music as well and often find myself listening to K-Love, Air1, or the Message on my radio. I also like the hymns as well and I feel that both hymns and praise music have a place in worship. Ephesians 5:19 says, "speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord."
There is always resistance to the dreaded word, “CHANGE”. We might like a little change in our pockets but we don’t always like change in the church. When some people think of change they think of liberalism and anarchy taking over the church. I understand the fear that comes with music. I can assure you that praise songs will not change what the Bible says. In fact, they can help us better understand God as many of the praise songs take their words right from the Scriptures.
This past Sunday we sang, “Open the Eyes of My Heart”. It is a beautiful song with lyrics that reflect what Paul was trying to get across the people of Ephesus in Ephesians 1:18. His prayer was that God would enlighten or open the eyes of their hearts so that they could see hope we have in God’s inheritance and his power.
Sometimes we need to have the eyes of our heart opened. Sometimes we forget that we have a hope of eternal life and that the things of earth are not that important in the eternal scheme of things. At other times we are blinded to God’s power. We know it is there but we don’t allow his power to flow because we don’t think or believe that God will do something. Like the father of the demon possessed boy we have to say, “I do believe. Lord, help my unbelief.” And then there are times when we do not see past our own needs and miss the needs of others. Our heart’s eyes need to be enlightened so that we can allow God to work through us.
I can not tell you the number of times this song has ministered to my spiritual life or my relationship with others. Having God enlighten the vision of our hearts is something we should be asking him to do more often. It is my prayer today that you will allow God to open the eyes of your heart and show you a new and better way.
Open The Eyes of My Heart
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord;
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord;
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Lord pour out Your Power and Love
As we sing Holy, Holy, Holy
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord;
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord;
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Lord pour out Your Power and Love
As we sing Holy, Holy, Holy
To see You high and lifted up
Shining in the light of Your glory
Lord pour out Your Power and Love
As we sing Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy,
Holy, Holy, Holy, I want to see You. (repeat)
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord;
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord;
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy,
Holy, Holy, Holy, I want to see You.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy,
Holy, Holy, Holy, I want to see You.
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord;
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord;
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
Words and Music by Paul Baloche ©1998 Hosanna Music
Prayer Thought: Dear God, You are Jehovah Ori, The God of light, and my guide. My prayer today is that you will open the eyes of my heart so that I can see you clearly and so that I can know the security of your eternal nature and your power. Help me to lift you up and glorify you instead of trying to lift myself up or think of myself before others. You are holy. You are God. You are my light and my salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Proverbs 25:13 -Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him; he refreshes the spirit of his master.
We had a blast at VBS this year. It was wonderful to see so many people excited about the things we can do together to spread the joy of the kingdom of God. It was a great week.
Our mission this year was IDES - International Disaster Emergency Services. Although they are based in Noblesville, Indiana, their mission touches the world and ministers to those who are affected by all kinds of natural disaster. Miss Minnie presented their mission each night. We challenged the kids to raise $500.00.
We wanted to keep the goal lower because we wanted it obtainable. Their were less children this year in part because we were one of 28 churches in Ashe County that had VBS all on the same week. As an incentive to get their goal we made a cold water challenge. If the children raised their goal they would get to see me get drenched in cold water. For every ten dollars they got to put in a cup of ice to make it even chillier. They made the goal by Wednesday night so we volunteered Michael Hohman if they could get $700.00 and Mike Grubb if they could get $1000.00. And the kids and adults raise $1,029.00 for IDES.
I must admit that I feel guilty dragging Michael and Mike into the fray. But the kids had a good time getting us wet... and cold. The water took our breath away for a second or two and then we were okay. Michael and Mike were good sports even though I believe they got it worse than I did.
It is refreshing when you think that the proceeds are going to a very good cause. It is wonderful to know that we can do great things for the Lord if we just put our minds to it.
I look forward to the challenges and the fun of working together with the people of Beaver Creek Christian Church. You are wonderful and loving people. God bless you.
Prayer Thought: Dear God, You are our creator, provider, protector, savior and king. Thank you for the refreshing snow-chilled drink that Mike, Michael, and I enjoyed. Please bless the money that was raised and help IDES use it to relieve suffering and to bring hope and salvation to other around the globe. Thank you for bringing me and my wife to Beaver Creek. In Jesus' precious name I pray. Amen.
This story is one of many inspirational fiction writings from the pen of Russell Kelfer who was an elder and Bible teacher at Wayside Chapel in San Antonio, Texas until his death in 2000.
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio,
Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will
Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as
people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns.
One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was
because of Edith Burns. When he walked into that waiting room,
there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly
talking to a young mother sitting beside her.
Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way:
"Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then
she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people
would be saved.
Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head
nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking
her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith
Burns. Do you believe in Easter?"
Beverly said, "Why, yes, I do."
Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?"
Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and
Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and
finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite
yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the
After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down, and
when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you
so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?"
Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the
patient." With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back
and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you're not going to live very long."
Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad?
Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going
to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You
have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and
here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!"
Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman this
Edith Burns is!"
Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the
office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office
opened, Edith did not show up.
Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would
have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm
very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here
next to me in my room who need to know about Easter."
Well, they did just that, and women began to come in and share that
room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor
from staff to patients were so excited about Edith that they
started calling her Edith Easter; that is, everyone except Phyllis
Cross, the head nurse.
Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith
because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army
hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the
original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was
hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick.
Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot.
When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said,
"Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you."
Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me. It won't
work and I'm not interested."
Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me
go home until you come into the family."
Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will
never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.
Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would
say, "God loves you, Phyllis, and I love you, and I'm praying for you."
One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room
like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith
said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is
your special day."
Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the
question, 'Do you believe in Easter?', but you have never asked me."
Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to
wait until you asked, and now that you have asked ."
Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter
Story of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe
that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?"
Phyllis Cross said, "Oh, I want to believe that with all of my
heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross
prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time
Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, she was carried
out on the wings of angels.
Two days later, Phyllis Cross came in and Edith said, "Do you know
what day it is?"
Phyllis Cross said, "Why Edith, it's Good Friday."
Edith said, "Oh, no, for you every day is Easter. Happy Easter,
Two days later, on Easter Sunday, Phyllis Cross came into work, did
some of her duties, and then went down to the flower shop and got
some Easter lilies, because she wanted to go up to see Edith, give
her some Easter lilies, and wish her a Happy Easter.
When she walked into Edith's room, Edith was in bed. That big
black Bible was on her lap. Her hands were in that Bible. There
was a sweet smile on her face. When Phyllis Cross went to pick up
Edith's hand, she realized Edith was dead. Her left hand was on
"In my Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place
for you. I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I
am, there you may be also."
Her right hand was on Revelation 21:4:
"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, there shall be
no more death nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more
pain, for the former things have passed away."
Phyllis Cross took one look at that dead body, and then lifted her
face toward heaven, and with tears streaming down her cheeks said,
"Happy Easter, Edith --- Happy Easter!"
Phyllis Cross left Edith's body, walked out of the room and over to
a table where two student nurses were sitting.
She said, "My name is Phyllis Cross. Do you believe in Easter?"
Genesis 1:1-2 -In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
I am reminded of an old joke I was told many years ago. When is baseball first mentioned in the Bible? Answer: Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning (Big Inning). Well don’t blame me, I never said it was a good joke. I said it was an old joke.
I love how the Bible never seeks to prove the existence of God. It never tries to explain him or categorize him. It isn’t a study on him. It is a revelation. Simply, In the beginning God.
In what beginning. Throughout the Bible we see God as the beginning and the end. He is the alpha and the omega (He’s A through Z). He is the first and the last. We know that God is eternal. We know that he has always been and always will be. That is how he reveals himself to us.
So what does the Bible mean when it says, “In the beginning?” The Hebrew word is “bereshith”. It is hard for us to fathom something that doesn’t have a beginning or end. Everything we know has a beginning and an end. We see how life starts and how it ends. We even know that the stars which all burn brightly now will have an end.
When the writer of Genesis declares “In the beginning” he is not stating the beginning of God. He is announcing the beginning of the history of creation. It is the beginning of time. It is the beginning and their will also be an end.
“In the beginning God created.” What did he create? Everything. The stars, the planets, the sun, light and darkness, land and seas, animals, birds, fish, even small insects and micro-organisms. He created man and woman. He created life.
Where as God created all things he created life and he gave that life to man and woman. He put them in charge of all things, plants, animals, birds, and fish. It was a blank canvas for us to show our creative nature too. Yes, God made us in his image. We are the only things with a creative nature that can use his creation as canvas to paint upon.
Your life is a canvas. Your talents and abilities are your palate of color. Your hands and feet are the brushes to use. God gave you a life as a gift. And he wants to see what you will paint. What will you create of your life?
What will you paint about God? How will you show this beautiful creation and all the gifts he has given you? We often call this a “spiritual” life. But it is not separate from the rest of life. Your painting should include God and his gifts to you. It especially should include his son, Jesus. When people look at your life painting will they see the beauty that God has created in you?
What will you paint about your family and friends? I know a woman who is tormented by how cruel her father was too her. Everyone thought else who looked at his life painting saw wonderful things but they did not see the darkness he painted to his family. He was a great man but she saw a different painting. It so hurt her that her painting has areas of darkness in it too. We need to make sure that our life painting is consistent to all who view it, especially our family and friends.
God has given us this wonderful gift, the canvas of life. What are you painting on it?
Just as life has a beginning, it also has an end. We don’t know when that end will come. Will your picture be complete? Will it be coherent? Or will it be a bunch of colors flung carelessly on the canvas? What will you do with your life canvas when it is all said and done.
Show Me Your Glory
by Third Day
I caught a glimpse of Your splendor
In the corner of my eye
The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen
And it was like a flash of lightning
Reflected off the sky
And I know I’ll never be the same
Show me Your glory
Send down Your presence
I want to see Your face
Show me Your glory
Majesty shines about You
I can’t go on without You, Lord
When I climb down the mountain
And get back to my life
I won’t settle for ordinary things
I’m gonna follow You forever
And for all of my days
I won’t rest ’til I see You again
Show me Your glory
Show me Your glory
I can’t live without You
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, You are Elohim, the creator. You have given me a beautiful life-canvas and the freedom to use it however I would like to use it. I know that you would like me to honor you with it. And I want to do just that. Help me to paint a picture that honors you. Hide me behind your glory and grace so that when others look at my life-canvas they will see you. In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.
Loren H. Lung
Psalm 85:5 -Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?
Sometimes we need to be revived. When we are refreshed our minds are clear and our hearts determined. We do better because our eyes see the goal and our minds understand the reasoning more clearly. We are no longer distracted. And it is easy to get excited.
We need a good revival. There is a church down the road that is having an old fashioned tent revival. I got tickled when I saw the flyer because it said, “7:00 p.m. – ?”. I commented to someone about it and they said, “We like to have the evangelist preach until everyone is revived.”
Our revival meeting is coming up in August. Pete Kunkle from First Christian Church in Kernersville will be our speaker. I am looking forward to being inspired and revived by these meetings. I hope you will start inviting your friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances.
But I don’t necessarily mean a church meeting when I say that we need to be revived. Although for those who are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, burned-out, or broken a good old church revival is just what the “Good Doctor” prescribed. The “Great Physician” can do some marvelous spiritual healing through a church revival. I have seen those who were dead in sin reborn through church revivals. I have also seen those who were downcast turn to joyous rapture in Christ.
But when I talk about revival it doesn’t necessarily take a tent meeting or week-long preaching. What it takes is a heart that is open to God. I love how the Psalmist asked God for refreshing. Throughout the Psalms we read how he asked God for a new spirit, refreshing, rekindled, revived, redirected, or renewed. And God delivers when we ask.
Revival is like looking for a spring rain that brings new life and bright color to the plants. Everything seems so much clearer after the spring rain. Even the air itself is clean and fresh.
Revival is a new start. Sometimes I need a nudge. I need a fresh perspective. I need to feel the Spirit move in me.
The great thing is that there can always be a new start. As long as you have breath left you can be revived to live a spirit-filled life. You can have fresh insight into your job, your family, your finances, your weight loss journey, your exercise routine, your church, and your spirit. All you have to do is ask.
REVIVAL is there for the asking.
The Rain Of God
Lord, you send the rain,
Giving water to the church,
To wash us and to cleanse us,
To quench our endless thirst
The rain that falls on us
Is often what we’re needing,
To refresh us and restore us,
A time of awesome blessing
For often we may feel
That we are in a drought,
In need of refreshing waters
When we are running out
For with the rain of God
Comes the growth that we need
And life springs forth from it
Just like a little seed
For if we don’t have rain,
How can our spirits grow
And flourish to produce
The crop that God has sowed?
So rain on us, dear God,
Draw us deep into your spring,
So our thirst can be satisfied
When we come and freely drink.
The Rain of God © By M.S.Lowndes
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, You are the one who brings the rain. Let your refreshing rain fall on me today. I need revived. I need to see your love and grace poured out. Thank-you God for the love and grace of Jesus Christ who died for me. Fill me with your presence and open my heart for revival. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 – Rejoice always
I like verses that are plain and simple. This is about as easy as it gets to understand. The ERV says,”Always be full of joy.” The Geneva Bible says, “Rejoice evermore.” And The Message says, “Be cheerful no matter what.” That’s easy to understand. What could be so difficult about that?
Understanding it is a whole lot easier than practicing it. It is hard to be happy in all circumstances. After all, happy has it’s root in the word happenings. We are happy when things are happening the way we want them too. We are happy when life is going well. We are happy when all everything lines up in a straight row and nothing is out of order.
But that is not life. This past week has been hard. My wife has had a virus. That made her sugar out of wack. Her glucose meter wasn’t giving accurate readings so we missed some of the signals and messed up. On top of that I did not felt well because of sinuses and allergies (Yea, Spring!). With family problems, financial pressures, and other things, I feel like there are times when I am barely keeping my head above water.
The dog ran off yesterday as we were getting ready to go to the doctor. We didn’t have time to mess with his foolishness. Every time we would get close to him he would run off. So we had to leave him out. We were concerned that he would get out in the street. But when we got home the neighbor helped us to get him. He was wet, dirty, thirsty, and happy. I was frustrated but glad to have him home.
Life can be trying at times. It can be frustrating. And it can be overwhelming. So how does one find happiness amidst the grinding of life?
Joy comes from within. It comes from understanding that God is in charge. It comes from trusting in his grace, his provision, his protection, and his providence. It comes from totally giving it over to him.
There are times we don’t feel like rejoicing. There are times when it is very difficult to hold on to joy. That is why we have to bring a sacrifice of praise to God. A sacrifice is offering something to God that cost us. Sometimes the sacrifice is to praise him even when we do not feel joyful.
Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.” Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish, “With shouts of grateful praise, I will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good” (Jonah 2:9). Jeremiah stated that we will bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the Lord. Even though his wife told him to “curse God and die,” Job, even though he lost almost everything, talked about giving God praise.
The Hebrew word "Todah" expresses the idea sacrificial praise to God. Giving Him glory even when you are struggling and suffering.
The blessing is that when we honor God with rejoicing and praise in the midst of trouble he rewards us with a lasting peace and joy that flows from the heaven.
PRAYER THOUGHT: Dear Lord Almighty, Thank you for the good days and thanks for the hard ones. The bad days help me appreciate the good ones. And I praise you for seeing me through everyday. You bless me beyond measure. You are my God and my King. Thank you for the saving grace that comes through your Son, Jesus Christ. It is in his name that I bring you praise, Amen and Amen.
Proverbs 3:21-23 -My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight,preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.
I usually love my GPS. But Yesterday I was frustrated and angry with it. We were scheduled to leave for the Singspiration at 3:45 p.m. and our van driver, Dwight, was in the hospital. “No problem,” I said, “I’ll drive.” But Tom-Tom had a different idea.
Since I had never been to the church we were going to attend I pulled “ole Tom” from my desk drawer and started it up. The screen turned red and said “No Maps Available”. I plugged it into the computer and it told me I had to download the map and it said it would be 38 minutes to download. We were supposed to leave in less than 20 minutes! So I left Tom-Tom on my desk with the computer.
Mike called and told tried to give me me directions over the phone. When I still sounded confused Mike suggested that I meet him along the way and I could follow him. That was a relief. Then I found out that Ronnie, one of the men riding in the van, knew where we were going. I was relieved! It is always good to know where you are going and have helpful people to guide you.
We got to the Singspiration safely and had a good time of fellowship and singing. I really enjoyed the conversation and joking around in the van on the way there and back too.
It’s funny how much more enjoyable the journey is when you know you a going the right direction and you are with others who will help see you to the end.
We need to be grounded to God’s word in our lives. We also need fellowship and accountability in our spiritual walk. If you think you can find God on the golf course on Sunday morning or have a relationship with him outside of the church you are in danger of being lead the wrong way. The Church of Jesus Christ is built on the rock that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. Their are too many people out there that are trying to sell you pebbles in your shoe rather than the solid stone bolder that is Jesus, our Lord. We want all the benefits of Jesus without having to endure those things we find less pleasant. But you need GPS (God's Practical Solution) in you life.
“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” Psalm 119:9
Prayer Thought: Dear God, Thank you for Mike and Ronnie helping me to get to the church yesterday. And thank you for those who have guided and helped me in my weight loss journey and in the church. Please be with Dwight and help him to feel better quickly. Thank you for this “great cloud of witnesses” who have clearly marked the path for my journey. You are my GPS and my God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Luke 23:46 – Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.
There was a certain Professor of Religion named Dr. Christianson, a studious man who taught at a small college in the Western United States. Dr. Christianson taught the required survey course in Christianity at this particular institution. Every student was required to take this course his or her freshman year regardless of his or her major. Although Dr. Christianson tried hard to communicate the essence of the gospel in his class, he found that most of his students looked upon the course as nothing but required drudgery. Despite his best efforts, most students refused to take Christianity seriously.
This year, Dr. Christianson had a special student named Steve. Steve was only a freshman, but was studying with the intent of going onto seminary for the ministry. Steve was popular, he was well liked, and he was an imposing physical specimen. He was now the starting center on the school football team, and was the best student in the professor’s class.
One day, Dr. Christianson asked Steve to stay after class so he could talk with him. “How many push-ups can you do?”
Steve said, “I do about 200 every night.”
200? That’s pretty good, Steve,” Dr. Christianson said.
Do you think you could do 300?”
Steve replied, “I don’t know… I’ve never done 300 at a time.”
“Do you think you could?” again asked Dr. Christianson.
“Well, I can try,” said Steve.
Can you do 300 in sets of 10? I have a class project in mind and I need you to do about 300 push-ups in sets of ten for this to work. Can you do it? I need you to tell me you can do it,” said the professor.
Steve said, “Well… I think I can…yeah, I can do it.”
Dr. Christianson said, “Good! I need you to do this on Friday. Let me explain what I have in mind.”
Friday came and Steve got to class early and sat in the front of the room. When class started, the professor pulled out a big box of donuts. No these weren’t the normal kinds of donuts, they were the extra fancy BIG kind, with cream centers and frosting swirls. Everyone was pretty excited it was Friday, the last class of the day, and they were going to get an early start on the weekend with a party in Dr.
Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the first row and asked, “Cynthia, do you want to have one of these donuts?”
Cynthia said, “Yes.”
Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?”
“Sure.” Steve jumped down from his desk to do a quick ten. Then Steve again sat in his desk. Dr. Christianson put a donut on Cynthia’s desk.
Dr. Christianson then went to Joe, the next person, and asked, “Joe, do you want a donut?”
Joe said, “Yes.”
Dr. Christianson asked, “Steve would you do ten push-ups so Joe can have a donut?” Steve did ten push-ups, Joe got a donut. And so it went, down the first aisle, Steve did ten pushups for every person before they got their donut. And down the second aisle, till Dr. Christianson came to Scott.
Scott was on the basketball team, and in as good condition as Steve. He was very popular and never lacking for female companionship.
When the professor asked, “Scott do you want a donut?”
Scott’s reply was, “Well, can I do my own pushups?”
Dr. Christianson said, “No, Steve has to do them.”
Then Scott said, “Well, I don’t want one then.”
Dr. Christianson shrugged and then turned to Steve and asked, “Steve, would you do ten pushups so Scott can have a donut he doesn’t want?” With perfect obedience Steve started to do ten pushups.
Scott said, “HEY! I said I didn’t want one!”
Dr. Christianson said, “Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts. Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it.” And he put a donut on Scott’s desk.
Now by this time, Steve had begun to slow down a little. He just stayed on the floor between sets because it took too much effort to be getting up and down. You could start to see a little perspiration coming out around his brow. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Now the students were beginning to get a little angry.
Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, “Jenny, do you want a donut?”
Sternly, Jenny said, “No.”
Then Dr. Christianson asked Steve, “Steve, would you do ten more Push-ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?” Steve did ten….Jenny got a donut.
By now, a growing sense of uneasiness filled the room. The students were beginning to say “No” and there were all these uneaten donuts on the desks. Steve also had to really put forth a lot of extra effort to get these pushups done for each donut. There began to be a small pool of sweat on the floor beneath his face, his arms and brow were beginning to get red because of the physical effort involved.
Dr. Christianson asked Robert, who was the most vocal unbeliever in the class, to watch Steve do each push up to make sure he did the full ten pushups in a set because he couldn’t bear to watch all of Steve’s work for all of those uneaten donuts. He sent Robert over to where Steve was so Robert could count the set and watch Steve closely. Dr.
Christianson started down the fourth row.
During his class, however, some students from other classes had wandered in and sat down on the steps along the radiators that ran down the sides of the room. When the professor realized this, he did a quick count and saw that now there were 34 students in the room. He started to worry if Steve would be able to make it. Dr. Christianson went on to the next person and the next and the next. Near the end of that row, Steve was really having a rough time. He was taking a lot more time to complete each set.
Steve asked Dr. Christianson, “Do I have to make my nose touch on each one?”
Dr. Christianson thought for a moment, “Well, they’re your pushups.
You are in charge now. You can do them any way that you want.” And Dr.
Christianson went on.
A few moments later, Jason, a recent transfer student, came to the room and was about to come in when all the students yelled in one voice, “NO! Don’t come in! Stay out!” Jason didn’t know what was going on.
Steve picked up his head and said, “No, let him come.”
Professor Christianson said, “You realize that if Jason comes in you will have to do ten pushups for him?”
Steve said, “Yes, let him come in. Give him a donut”
Dr. Christianson said, “Okay, Steve, I’ll let you get Jason’s out of the way right now. Jason, do you want a donut?”
Jason, new to the room hardly knew what was going on. “Yes,” he said, “give me a donut.”
“Steve, will you do ten push-ups so that Jason can have a donut?”
Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great effort. Jason, bewildered, was handed a donut and sat down.
Dr. Christianson finished the fourth row, then started on those visitors seated by the heaters. Steve’s arms were now shaking with each push-up in a struggle to lift himself against the force of gravity.
Sweat was profusely dropping off of his face and, by this time, there was no sound except his heavy breathing, there was not a dry eye in the room.
The very last two students in the room were two young women, both cheerleaders, and very popular. Dr. Christianson went to Linda, the second to last, and asked, “Linda, do you want a doughnut?”
Linda said, very sadly, “No, thank you.”
Professor Christianson quietly asked, “Steve, would you do ten push-ups so that Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?” Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow pushups for Linda.
Then Dr. Christianson turned to the last girl, Susan. “Susan, do you want a donut?”
Susan, with tears flowing down her face, began to cry. “Dr.
Christianson, why can’t I help him?”
Dr. Christianson, with tears of his own, said, “No, Steve has to do it alone, I have given him this task and he is in charge of seeing that everyone has an opportunity for a donut whether they want it or not.
When I decided to have a party this last day of class, I looked at my grade book. Steve, here is the only student with a perfect grade.
Everyone else has failed a test, skipped class, or offered me inferior work. Steve told me that in football practice, when a player messes up he must do push-ups.. I told Steve that none of you could come to my party unless he paid the price by doing your push ups. He and I made a deal for your sakes. Steve, would you do ten push-ups so Susan can have a donut?” As Steve very slowly finished his last pushup, with the understanding that he had accomplished all that was required of him, having done 350 pushups, his arms buckled beneath him and he fell to the floor.
Dr. Christianson turned to the room and said. “And so it was, that our Savior, Jesus Christ, on the cross, plead to the Father, ‘into thy hands I commend my spirit.’ With the understanding that He had done everything that was required of Him, he yielded up His life. And like some of those in this room, many of us leave the gift on the desk, uneaten.” Two students helped Steve up off the floor and to a seat, physically exhausted, but wearing a thin smile. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” said the professor, adding “Not all sermons are preached in words.”
Turning to his class the professor said, “My wish is that you might understand and fully comprehend all the riches of grace and mercy that have been given to you through the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He spared not only His Begotten Son, but gave Him up for us all for the whole Church, now and forever. Whether or not we choose to accept His gift to us, the price has been paid. Wouldn’t you be foolish and ungrateful to leave it laying on the desk?”
He Is Risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED!
Prayer Thought: Dear God, Thank you for Jesus, the cross, the tomb, the death and the life. I praise you for this day when we celebrate the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ who gave us the victory over sin and death. My God, you are awesome and beyond my imagination! I worship you for you are Lord and King. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Psalm 38:4 – My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.
Hebrews 10:22 – let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
I spent sometime talking with a young lady about the problems in her life. It didn’t take long to figure out she was feeling guilt and shame. She is having trouble cooping with her life. She knows the choices she has made do not honor God. And her guilt is eating her up.
She is has been gaining weight really fast as of late. She knows that she can’t deal with the guilt so she sits and watches movies and eats. The weight goes up and she feels more guilt and shame. It is a vicious circle.
I can relate to her because I have been there too. I told her that the only way to deal with her problems is to surrender. You have to give up and trust God. You have to repent of the things that are causing the guilt and ask God to forgive you and remove the guilt and shame. Then you set your eyes on Christ. You look at the love and forgiveness that cleanses you from sin. You look at what God wants you to be.
Guilt is one of the tools in Satan’s toolbox. He wants to remind you of the mistakes you’ve made. He wants you to take your eyes off Jesus. He wants you to see the dirty rags you once wore and remind you of the mess you made of things. With your eyes off Jesus you fall into the raging sea just like Peter did when he got out of the boat to walk to Jesus.
Guilt is misdirected anger accompanied by sorrow and self-pity. It doesn’t do anything productive. It is worldly sorrow. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no guilt, but worldly sorrow brings death,” 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Did you know that guilt is mentioned in the Bible almost 200 times. Most of the verse that deal with guilt are found in the Old Testament. That is because Christians are free of guilt. When we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to remove all our iniquity! We are 100 percent clean. Our sins are as far is East is from the West.
Don’t let Satan trick you into living a life of guilt! Keep your eyes on Jesus. Walk in the light as he is in the light.
Prayer Thought: Dear God, Thank you for your grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Thank you for freeing me of the chains of guilt. I ask you to be with those who are suffering in the same way this morning and bring them to your loving, forgiving, cleansing grace. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
Many church denominations celebrate what is called the Lenten season. It is the forty days prior to the Passion week. It is a call for followers of Christ to prepare themselves for Easter. During this time followers are called to give up something for the sake of Christ.
All throughout Jesus' ministry he told those who followed him that they should be prepared. They should be found to be faithful servants when the Jesus comes into his kingdom. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells three parables that give light to how we are to be prepared.
Preparation is not just for the season leading up to Easter. As faithful followers of Jesus we need to be prepared at all times. We need to be waiting patiently for the return of Christ by being about the work of our Lord and Savior.
Are you ready? John prayed "Maranatha" at the end of the book of Revelation. It means, "Come quickly, Lord". I remember telling the congregation that this should be our prayer too. And one little old lady said, "Just not today!"
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for the marvelous gift of grace that came from the death and resurrection of your son, Jesus Christ. I want to be prepared at all times. Remind me that I need to be vigilant in following your way. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I have talked with many people who are obese. They tell me that the hardest part of their situation is the total lack of hope. They struggle with depression and self-loathing. I can relate because I have been there with them too. And it doesn’t feel good not being able to see your toes, let alone touch them.
The greatest comfort to me in my life and on my weight loss journey is that God is with me and it is he who gives me hope. When life feels empty and void God can fill you with peace, hope, and yes, even joy. He can make the difference and change our sorrow to joy.
We so underestimate the Holy Spirit. I don’t think we understand God’s Holy Spirit as much as we understand his Son, Jesus. Jesus is “God with Us” but the Holy Spirit is “God in us”. It is this spirit that guides, helps, and comforts us. His Spirit even prays for us when we don’t even know how to put our experience into words. How awesome is that?
God’s Spirit isn’t just here to help us with the religious stuff. His Spirit helps us where ever we need it. Yes, the Holy Spirit is moving in my life and helping me to lose weight. It makes sense, God has called us to be a living testimony of his power, love, and grace and we need to be healthy and strong as his living testament to what he can do in our lives.
The problem is that not many of us want to give up control of our lives. That is probably why the Word tells us not to put out the fire of the Holy Spirit. When we put our will over His than we are throwing water on the Lord’s Spirit in our lives. We need to fully trust him so that he can fill us with hope. Then we will see how the power of the Holy Spirit can overflow from our lives and affect others for the kingdom.
“Hope is some extraordinary spiritual grace that God gives us to control our fears, not to oust them.”
Prayer Thought: Dear God, Thank you for being my creator-God. I praise you for Jesus and the sacrifice he made by taking my sins on himself and dying on the cross. I praise you for the victory over death, sin, and Satan when Jesus rose from the grave. I worship you for the Spirit you have given to me. I ask that you fill me with hope, peace, love, and power through your Spirit so that I may be a bright light and a testament to your glory. I love you, Lord. Thanks for loving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Hebrews 3:16-17 – Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness?
I often wonder about the Hebrew people. Why were they so hard to get along with? Why were they so stubborn? Why did they keep biting the hand that feds them? Why did they grumble and complain so much?
Well, let us think about it for a minute. They had just come out of 400 years of slavery. They weren’t used to thinking for themselves. They weren’t used to taking care of themselves. They weren’t used to making decisions for themselves. They couldn’t raise an army, put together a government, or even organize their labor. No wonder they drug their feet so much.
It only takes a few months for them to travel the 350 miles to the Promised Land. And yet, God makes them wander the wilderness for another 40 years. Yes, it was because of their sin and lack of faith. But it was also a time which God used to train them to be “His people”. He wanted to break some old habits and teach them a new way of life.
I look at my time on earth with the church as that trip through the wilderness. God is giving me the tools, incentives, and important ingredients to become a man of faith and integrity. I have to patiently wait and be open to learn his will and his ways. He is using this time to teach me and to break a lot of old habits. He is using this time to train me so that I’ll be ready for whatever he has for me to do.
Are you learning that it is a learning experience? Are you frustrated with you growth in the Lord? Are you looking for a short-cut or thinking about quitting all together? Remember that there is something for you to learn and discover about yourself and how you live.
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
-Attributed to Harry S Truman
“Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.”
Prayer Thought: Dear God, It is easy to give up. It is harder to submit. Please help me to stop looking for the quick fixes in my life and learn how to live, love, and do the things you want me to do. Help me to grow in my life to be the person of integrity and faith that you are teaching me how to be. I pray this in the name of my savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen."
I am excited at what is going on at Beaver Creek Christian Church. Plans are being made for Vacation Bible School. People are a buzz talking about what God is doing in their lives. Wendy and I are getting to meet and develop relationships with more and more people. You can feel the spirit of the Lord moving in people's lives.
What is it that you want to see God do among his people? Whatever it is you may be thinking too small. God is able to do more than we can ask... or even imagine. So don't be putting binders on God as to what he can do or can't do. Don't limit the power of his spirit at work in us.
I am looking forward to seeing God continue to move in our lives, our church, and our community!
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you for your power, strength and direction in my life and in the ministry at Beaver Creek Christian Church. I ask your blessings to be on us as we seek to follow your will and to get out of the way so you can do even more than is in our puny little minds. I love you, Lord. In Jesus' name, Amen!
I just love Psalm 100. The writer is showing the joy and excitement that there is in worship and sacrifices of praise to God. In the Biblical days, it would be a thrill to go to the synagogue, temple, or tabernacle. These places represented God's presence among the people. It must have been exciting to "come before his presence with singing".
How often do we have the same joy and excitement when we come together for our worship service? Do we have an attitude of joy as we join in fellowship with God, his son, Jesus, and with each other? Do we sing with joyful songs or do we grumble at the music on Sunday? Do we enter the doors with thanksgiving or do we sneak in at the last minute and bolt out the door as soon as we can? Do we look at church with true worship and praise or do we just think we are fulfilling our obligation to be here?
I challenge you this week to "Shout for Joy to the Lord!" See God as our shepherd and creator who is worthy of our time, talents, and treasures. Let's enter the doors with thanksgiving and into the sanctuary with praise for all that God has done for us through the blood and sacrifice of the perfect lamb, Jesus Christ.
Let me give you one more challenge. I challenge you to invite your friends to join us in fellowship, worship and service. If they see the joy and excitement in you than I am sure they will want to experience it too.
Prayer Thought: Dear God Almighty, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and praise. Forgive me of the times that I have begrudgingly come to church. How could I ever think that I was doing you a favor by my presence? You have provide your love, grace, provision, protection, and your guidance. You are my God. I shout for joy at the thought of being able to be near you in fellowship. I pray this in the name of Jesus, my mediator and my savior forever, Amen.
Although this probably sounds a little funny to us today, this saying was most likely pretty common in Jesus' day. There are several places in the scripture where Jesus used common terminology to apply truth to a given situation. In this case, he was sending out the 70 followers to teach and evangelize.
The image that Jesus is producing here is that we need to be deliberate and calculating with our moves. We don't just want to rush in and do things just because we can or because everyone else is doing them. We want to think before we act.
The other image is "innocent as doves". This one is a little easier to understand. Innocence is often characterized as trusting, loving, submissive, and oblivious to the evils of this world.
Jesus is projecting a balance here. We need to be aware of our surroundings and move cautiously and calculating. But we also need to trust God and be submissive to his will while all along keeping from being entangled in the affairs of this world.
Martin Luther King, Jr said, "“We must combine the toughness of the serpent with the softness of the dove, a tough mind and a tender heart.”
Prayer Thought: Dear Lord, God Almighty, I praise you for the opportunity to serve you to this fellowship of believers and the community here. I ask that you will help me to be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Give me the strength, courage, and the words to say as I reflect your glory. I pray this prayer in the name of Jesus, your Son and my Savior, Amen.
I really don't like it when people share that old saying, "What doesn't kill you will make you stronger". I find it even more intolerable when they say it with a big old smile on their face. That saying may be true but it doesn't help the hurt feelings, bruised ego, and frustrations of the troubles we may be enduring at the time.
Sometimes we try to comfort people by quoting Romans 8:28 to people. I know that God can take the worst problems we are going through and make something good out of it. But it is not much comfort.
So what do you do with a verse like James 1:2-3? "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."
How can we be joyful in the face of adversity? Here are some helpful thoughts:
1. Realize that joy doesn't come from outside circumstances like happiness. Joy comes bubbling up from down in our hearts.
2. Joy comes from trusting in God and realizing that when circumstances are outside of our control that God is still very much in control.
3. Joy is a conscious choice that we make. It is a result of letting the Holy Spirit lead our lives.
4. When you need a little joy you can always ask God for it.
5. There is always something to praise God for.
Recently, when we were going through a rough patch and I was feeling sorry for myself, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that he was thankful that he had cancer. After reading his post I was humbled and reminded that my troubles were really small compared to what some are having to endure. If my friend can be joyful with a life-threatening disease than I should find my joy too.
May the joy of the Lord guard your heart and mind in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Prayer Thought: Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for being with me in the good times and the bad times. I want to praise you in all circumstances and worship you with joy. Help me to sing and be joyful. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord, Amen.
I love what the Apostle John says in this passage. "Behold, what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called children of God! And that we are!..." We are God's children adopted by him through the amazing grace and love that was provided for us through Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul states in Romans 5:6-9, "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!"
Do you see why John is so excited about this? We deserve to die for our sins. But God's love for us is made complete in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
As children of God we receive his protection, his provision, and his blessings. He has given us his word and his Spirit as a guide through life. He has given us the fellowship of fellow children of God in the church. And he has given us the promise of eternal life with him.
That excites me! "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us...!"
Prayer Thought: Dear God, Thank you for your incredible love and grace. I cherish being called a "child of God". I ask right now that you will help me to make the right choices and keep me from "tarnishing the family name." I pray that when others see me they will see the light of God burning in me. In Jesus' precious name, Amen.