Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Making Some Serious Changes

Serious change takes hard work as grandson
Aiden demonstrates in this picture.
     Why is it that we only want to make some serious changes when we are up against the wall?  Wouldn't it be easier to do it before we get in a bind?  I have had to ask myself these questions many times in my life as it seems I tend to do things the hard way.  I know I am not alone.  Over and over again in the Old Testament, the Lord called His chosen people a "stiff-necked and rebellious" nation.  I plead guilty to this.
The sin nature, though made toothless by the blood of Christ, is still lurking in my flesh and ready to spring into action if I allow it.
      All of us have areas of weakness and can easily succumb to temptation if we do not stand our guard as God has called us to do (I Peter 5:8).  Certainly, in my life, I had not been keeping watch very well.
I went to my routine physical in January knowing that I needed to lose weight.  I had been reminded over the years that my weight was creeping up slowly and with it would come all sorts of consequences.  I knew that, but I seemed to have NO power over my impulse to eat, or at least, I told myself that.
      Over the years, my cholesterol had gone up to a point where I needed medication.  Now my test results showed my blood pressure slowly becoming elevated and my blood sugar going up.  It was more than a little scary.  I knew that if I made no changes my health would suffer.  My doctor, once again, reminded me that I needed to take better care of myself and lose weight as well as having a certain diagnostic procedure done which I had been putting off as long as possible.
     I went home and prayed hard.  For many years, I had tried various diets which worked for a short time, but nothing seemed to stick.  I regained what I had lost and then some.  Likewise, I wasn't certain I could overcome my fear of this diagnostic procedure so I poured my heart out to the Lord.  God, always faithful to guide and teach us, brought to mind so many wonderful Scriptures:  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13); "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5b); "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9b).  All of these and more flooded my mind.  As I searched for answers, I had peace that my steps would be directed.
Sometimes we need help from our friends or our
Daddy in order to make those changes.
      Since I knew that God does not move a parked car that has its parking brake on, I put myself into gear and stepped out in faith to make an appointment to get the diagnostic procedure done.  With prayer, encouragement from fellow believers, and faith in the One who made me, I went through with the medical procedure.  I also decided to actively pursue a diet regimen and joined an online program that has had high marks for years.  Not a fad program but one that is sound.   I knew it would take a commitment, a decision, no going back, a change for life in order to succeed.  To date, I have lost fifteen pounds with many more to go in order to improve my health.  Already, I feel better and much more fit than even a month ago.  To God alone be all the glory in this success for He has guided me on this path.
       Sharing this, I do not mean to put the spotlight on me.  My purpose is to encourage you to step out in faith, take off the parking brake, and make a decision to trust God for changes in your life that you know you need to make.  Coming to Christ requires a decision to commit your life to Him.  Walking in the Spirit each day takes a concerted effort on our part not to give in to the old sin nature when circumstances get rocky.  Serious change comes when we decide to step out in faith and trust ourselves to God to walk us through the necessary process to bring the results desired.  Please do not wait until things are ready to boil over as I did with my health.  Address them now and seek God's help in His Word and through prayer.  Take the hand of fellow believers for accountability and encouragement.  There is no problem or temptation that cannot be overcome with the help of Jesus Christ our Lord and a decision to follow His wisdom and guidance.
       I am grateful both to God and my fellow believers who have walked with me through this process and daily lift me up in prayer.  Change is hard, but the consequences of not changing can be far worse.  Whether you are dealing with health issues, such as I was, or others (financial, marital, job related),  I encourage you to seek the Lord in prayer, and then, be willing to follow His guidance.  He WILL NEVER leave you nor forsake you.  May your day be crowned with victory in Christ!  Soli Deo Gloria! Selah.
The results of hard work are worth the effort in the end.
To God be the glory alone!

I welcome your thoughts and comments.  Please feel free to leave them.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Let Your Light Shine

     I am a candle lover from the word "go".  Anyone who comes to visit my home soon sees an abundance of candles on every table.  Their warm glow is relaxing and the fragrances are delectable.  Plus
they are a big help when storms and hurricanes come our way.  
     In 2004 when we experienced three hurricanes, no one in my family complained about my many candles as it was the only light we had at night.  Three days without electricity meant candlelight meals and conversations.  When we blew out the candles to go to bed, I have to say the darkness was complete since our entire neighborhood had no electricity or street lights.  It was an eerie feeling to say the least.  
The Disney World Electric Light Parade
     Perhaps this is why the Lord emphasized the importance of shining our light in the darkness all around us in this world.  Matthew recorded the Lord's Words in his Gospel when he wrote in 5:14-16:  "You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
     We are meant to shine dear friends!  When God lights the fire of His call in our hearts and we respond to His invitation to salvation, we become  a new light in this world.  We are to dispel the darkness by revealing a whole new way of living which will bring glory to the Lord.
     Anyone who has ever seen the Disney World Electric Light Parade will tell you how spectacular the sights and sounds are.  All the street lights of Disney are darkened so that the electric displays on the floats are magnified.  It is amazing to behold.  I never grow tired of seeing this.  In the same way, we are to shine, sparkle, and act as beacons to the lost.  Our lives should clearly point the way to salvation for those stumbling in the darkness of their sin.
     In practical terms, this means that wherever we are in a job, in school, at home, or with friends, we are to be a light in that place for the sake of Christ.  I frequently hear people complain about the folks they work with or go to school with who do things which they believe are wrong.  However, their solution is to quit and go somewhere else.  This may be contrary to the very purpose that God has allowed them to be in that position.  God has sent us as ambassadors to share our faith, to stand our ground, to shine for His glory.  We cannot do that if we are hiding our light under a bushel for fear we will be laughed at if we speak up.  Even if we change jobs or find a different school, this will not change the fact that we live in
a world that is lost and dying.  A new job or a new school will ultimately have its own problems.  What will bring change is our witness shining in contrast to the sin around us.  Our call in this life is to be men and women of character reflecting God's glory as a result of our good works.
Disney World Electric Light Parade
     I cannot imagine an evening without the soft glow and fragrance of my candles.  They make such a difference in the atmosphere of our home.  In similar manner, we need to remember how we can change the atmosphere at work, at home, or play by shining the light of Christ and being His sweet fragrance to others.  May our lives radiate the glory of our Savior in all that we do so they may be drawn to Christ.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and comments here my friends.  Please leave a word of encouragement so others might also be edified.                                                                        

Friday, February 24, 2012

Olive or Canola Oil?

A tantalizing dessert served at the Savoy Grill
in London, England
     Nearly every day, we can pick up a newspaper and read about another food that has been found to be detrimental to our health.  Sometimes it seems so discouraging,  and often I wonder what will be the next demon in my cabinet.  Just the other day, I read an article about olive oil not being as healthy for us as canola oil.  Yet, for years, we have all heard the praises of this oil as being a heart healthy addition to our diet.
     All this consideration of food and diet can be mind boggling, and some folks seem obsessed with eating just the right thing in order to maintain their health and peace of mind.  However, our existence is made up of more than issues like what we eat.
     In Mark 7:18b-23 (NAS), Jesus, who was speaking to His disciples, instructs them:  "Do you not see that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him; because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?  (Thus He declared all food clean) And He was saying, 'That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts and fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.  All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.'"
     This scripture points to the central issue we all must face.  What we harbor in our hearts is really what defiles us not what we eat on a daily basis.  Yes, we do need to watch out for our health.  Learning good nutrition habits and watching our diet can help to prolong our physical health.  But Jesus was concerned about our heart health....our spiritual heart health.
     Often, whether we want to admit it or not, we have thoughts which we know are not pleasing to the Lord; yet, we allow them to remain and eat away at our spiritual health.  No one else sees these secret sins but God does.  The only time our family or friends become aware of things which we hold in our thoughts or hearts is when we choose to act on them in direct disobedience to God.  This is what defiles us and hurts our relationship with others and with the Lord.  Our only recourse in redeeming our spiritual health is to quickly confess our sins to God and repent (I John 1:9).  By doing this, we are instantly restored to right standing with our Father in heaven.
St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland
     Watching our diet and being good stewards of the physical bodies which He has given to us is indeed important, but Jesus wants us to pay attention to the thoughts which we allow into our hearts.  He wants us to watch the words and actions that flow forth out of our lives.  Do these match with the life of one committed to Jesus Christ?  If they do not, it should be a "red flag" to us that we need to spend some time on our knees before the Father in serious prayer.  May our inner person of the heart reflect God's holiness in all that we do for this is the key issue to the abundant life in Christ.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts here.  I read each one and find myself blessed.  Please feel free to comment and share encouragement with others.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Holy to the Lord

A crown from the collection of the Wittelsbach Family of Munich
     Today marks the beginning of Lent a forty day period set aside to reflect on the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is also a time to consider our walk with the Lord and repent of our sins before Him in preparation for the great celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter.  While prayer and meditation on the Word should be a part of our daily routine already, we need to go a step further and consider what it means to follow Christ.
     In his letter to believers, Peter penned these words:  "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light" (I Peter 2:9).  This is what it means to be called a Christian.  We are ministers set apart unto God as His people, consecrated and called to declare the praises of the Lord.   Furthermore, He has sealed us with His Holy Spirit and written His name upon our hearts.  What a privilege to belong to Christ!
     This relationship was foreshadowed in the Old Testament when the Lord set apart Aaron and his sons for the priesthood.  Reading the specific directions for the clothing that priests were to wear, I came across this verse in Exodus 28:36-37:  "You shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, 'Holy to the Lord'.  And you shall fasten it on the front of the turban."  From the description, we know that Aaron was set apart to the Lord.  He wore the turban on which this solid gold plate was attached.  He was called to serve God, and the Lord made it clear that the priesthood would not end.  Now the ministry has been given to those who are called by Christ, and instead of a golden plate, God has inscribed on our hearts "Holy to the Lord".  We were purchased by the blood of the Lamb on the cross.  We are no longer our own, but we live to serve God declaring His praises.  So how do we go about living a life set apart to our Savior?
     First, we can demonstrate our calling by joining in family, church and individual praise of our Lord on a regular basis.  God called us out of this world to live a different sort of life from that of the world system around us.  We are to lift His name up with a thankful heart no matter what our circumstances are in this life.  People will notice the person who is motivated by praise rather than complaining.  This attitude of praise lifts up the Lord and others around us rather than tearing down.
     Secondly, as a Royal priesthood, we are to stand for the Lord's truth as found in His Word.  Like an ambassador, we are to represent by our words and deeds the government of God to a fallen and dark world.  Today, many people are afraid to take a stand for what they believe, but as Christians, we are called to obey the Lord and stand for His truth.  No one said this would be easy which is why regular fellowship with other believers is so important to us.  We need one another in order to receive encouragement to fulfill the call that God has given to each one of us.
     Finally, we are called to declare the Gospel to those who may never have heard the Words of truth.  Jesus gave us this commission before He ascended to heaven (Matt. 28:18-20).  We do not know whom the Lord has called;  however, our job is to tell everyone we meet about the Lord of Life that we serve.  The results are in God's hands.  What a privilege to share the Good News of salvation with others!  There is no greater joy in all the world than to see someone give their life to Christ.
     Too often, I think the feeling amongst many believers is that the job of ministering only belongs to Pastors.  Yet, if we read and re-read the Scripture, we can see that God has called us to be "Holy to the Lord"....set apart...sanctified to Him for His purpose and glory.  How well are we doing?  As we enter this season of contemplation before Easter, we need to seriously sit down and evaluate how we are serving God.  Are we praising His name each day by the way we live and speak?  Do we take a stand for His namesake when others challenge our faith?  Are we telling others about Jesus Christ and what He has done for us?  If we are not, we need to repent and re-think our call in Christ.  We may not be preaching each Sunday in a pulpit as a vocation, but our lives preach daily to those around us at work, at home and in our church.  May the Lord find us faithful, and may we each remember that we are "Holy to the Lord."  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and insights here.  Have you ever considered that you are a priest before the Lord?  Please feel free to share a verse, a thought or comment to encourage one another.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Sheep of His Pasture

     When our basset hound was a puppy, he had to learn the rules of our house and how to interact with our, then, six year old dalmatian.  He needed guidance and help with things like learning to stay off the furniture.  He also needed food, water and care so he would stay healthy.  Being animal lovers in our home, we gladly helped him adjust to his new environment.
     In the same way, our Lord is a loving shepherd of our hearts and souls when we belong to Him.  He is always ready to help us and wants us to depend wholeheartedly upon Him.  Psalm 100 reads:  "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!  Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing.  Know that the Lord, He is God;  It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.  Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good;  His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations."
     My thoughts today focused on the verse that says "we are the sheep of His pasture".  What does that mean to us?  Well, having helped our oldest son raise two lambs for 4-H taught me a lot about these creatures we are compared to.
     First, sheep have no sense of direction.  They can easily wander off and become lost.  They need a shepherd to help them find their way.  Likewise, a Christian has to rely on God's direction for their life so they can stay on the straight and narrow path He has for them.
     Secondly, sheep cannot clean themselves.  If you have ever been around a lamb or a flock of sheep, they have a very distinct odor which will remain in your nostrils long after you have left the sheep behind.  A good shepherd will pick the briers and thorns out of the wool on a sheep and keep it trimmed.  In the same manner, a Christian cannot cleanse himself.  He needs the heavenly Father to cleanse him on a daily basis.  Only the blood of Christ can wash our sins away!
     Sheep are helpless when injured and defenseless when attacked.  If a lamb falls and breaks a leg, a shepherd will often pick up the lamb and carry it until the leg is better.  A shepherd also defends the flock against wolves and other animals of prey just as David did.  Our Lord and Shepherd does the same thing for each of us who know and love Him.  He binds up our wounds and protects us against the attacks of the enemy.
     On their own, sheep cannot find food or water.  They need the shepherd to guide them to green pastures which is depicted in the 23rd Psalm.  God does the same thing for us.  He is the "bread of life" and the "living water" if we will avail ourselves of His spiritual food on a daily basis.  He always leads us to the truth found in His Word.
     A good shepherd knows that his sheep are easily frightened and often sings to them or plays an instrument in the night to calm them especially if there is a storm.  Our Lord is able to do the same for us when we become afraid.  His promises are the soothing ointment we need for our souls.
     Finally, the sheep's wool is valuable and belongs to the shepherd who has looked after this animal.  It brings blessing to the one who has been willing to sacrifice all for the sake of his animals.  All that we as Christians have in terms of prosperity and production also belong to the Lord.  He has given us all that we need and provides for us in every way; so really all that we have is His.
     How appropriate was the Lord's description of us as His sheep!  He is the Good Shepherd who has laid down His life for us.  If we will just draw near to Him, He will "meet all our needs according to His riches in glory".  May this encourage each of us as we walk daily with our Master.  Selah!

I welcome your comments and thoughts here.  I read each one and pray for those who take the time to leave them.  May God grant you encouragement and blessings this day.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's Not About Us (Even Though We Think it is)

     In the Westminster Catechism, the first question is:  "What is the chief end of man?"  The answer is:
The Church of the Holy Rood in Scotland
"To glorify God and enjoy Him forever."  Our purpose in His calling and election is to pursue holiness and reflect His glory in our every day walk on earth.  Unfortunately, we often trip over our own flesh and fall into the sin of selfishness.  We take the wonderful truth of the catechism and turn the question around to read:  "What is the chief end of God?"  Our answer sounds something like this:  "To love me and make me happy."  Instead of listening to God's call for holy living, we become self-absorbed with our own pursuit of happiness and gratification.  I wish I could say that none of us fall into this pit, but the truth is that ever since the Fall of man in the garden we have all come up short in this area.
     Paul's letter to the Philippian believers included a call to remember who they are in Christ.  He wrote:
"Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:3-5).  If selfishness and self-centered living were not a problem, the Apostle would not have taken time to instruct believers in this matter.  Self-centeredness is at the heart of and the essence of sin.  Sin, itself, demands the autonomy of self instead of submission to God.  We see this all the time when people (many who call themselves Christians) develop a great deal of anger when they are cut off in traffic or when someone cuts in line in front of them.  Their reaction says a lot about their spiritual maturity.  Self-centered people think "it's all about me".  "I" am the most important person.
The Church of the Holy Rood in Stirling, Scotland
     By contrast, we would do well to consider the earthly life of our Savior.  Jesus summed up His lifestyle in Matthew 20:28 when He said:  "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many."  Likewise, He told us that we are to imitate Him in this servanthood to others when He answered His disciples who were arguing over their rank in His kingdom.  He said in Matthew 20:25-27:  "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever would be first among you must be your slave...."  The King of Glory came in the form of a humble servant, washing the dirty feet of His disciples, healing the multitudes, and giving Himself as a sacrifice for our sins.  There was nothing self-centered in His perfect life.
     According to the Bible, our first step in changing from "me" centered to "God" centered is in coming to Christ as our Lord and Savior.  When we respond to God's regenerating work in our life and receive salvation, we begin a process of transforming grace which is gradual and progressive.  We are forgiven instantly and justified in Christ at that moment, but our sanctification requires a lifetime of faithful application and diligence to the teachings of our Lord.  This is the area where we can fall down.  How easy it is to put aside time in prayer and Bible study.  Yet, we have been warned over and over in God's Word to put on His armor and be prepared because we have an Adversary that is looking to find our weak spot.  This weak spot is selfishness and self-centered living.
     Our culture surrounds us with messages all day long about how to gratify the self.  Politicians promise "x, y, z" in order to pander to our "self-centered" flesh, and it works even among Christians.  Listen to commercials and the television set or radio, and all of them will appeal to some aspect of what we deserve in life.  Christians, we need to be alert, and remember to whom we belong.  We were bought with a price and we are not our own any longer.  If we name the name of Christ, then what we say must line up with how we live.
     In order to really take a good look at our lives, we need to do an inventory of our behavior each day and reflect on whether we have acted like a servant or more like a Pharisee having the appearance of godliness on the outside but an empty heart on the inside.  Asking some questions, helps us to consider our conduct:  How did I interact with people at work today?  Was I demanding of my own way or did I offer help and encouragement?  How did I treat my family?  Have I shown respect to my family, my boss, my co-workers or did I criticize and tear down?  Above all, did I reflect the love and humility of Christ to those around me in word and deed?
The Church of the Holy Ghost in Heidelberg, Germany
     Each day we are adding to the legacy which we will leave behind when our life on earth comes to a close.  Will people remember a self-serving individual who demanded their own way or will they remember a person whose heart was obedient, servant-like, and glorifying to Christ?  Our daily walk is being watched every day by people around us and especially by our heavenly Father.  What will they see?  My prayer is that we will glorify God and enjoy Him forever!  Selah!

What helps you overcome this tendency to be selfish?  Do you have a favorite Scripture that encourages you?  I welcome your comments and thoughts and I read each one with joy.  Blessings!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Living Like There is No Tomorrow

     What if we knew that today would be our last day on earth?  How would we act?  What would we do?  Who would we make plans to call, write, or see?  This isn't just an interesting speculation.  It is a reality that we have to deal with as human beings.  Each day that we have an opportunity to wake up is a gift from God, yet we so take life for granted don't we?
      In the past couple of weeks, people have suddenly passed from the scene.  I think of a friend who attended our church and worked in our local grocery store.  He was diagnosed with throat cancer and in a matter of a few weeks, he was gone.  Then, yesterday at church, we heard of someone who had been recovering from surgery and by all appearances was getting along quite well.  During her stay at a local rehab center, she suddenly died.  It took everyone by surprise.  These examples point to one thing.  We are to make the most of each day.
     Scripture speaks of the frailty of our human life:  "Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).  Then in Psalm 39:4-6, we read:  "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!  Behold you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you.  Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!  Surely a man goes about as a shadow!  Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!"
     Coming into the recognition that our time here is brief should help us to value each day and provide us with greater clarity.  In fact, there are several reasons why it is good to live like today may be our last.
     First, we have much more wisdom in the way in which we use our time if we remember that each day is a gift from God.  We develop a greater focus on our tasks at hand and deal with problems and issues more wisely.  Psalm 90:12 was a prayer of Moses.  He certainly was charged with a huge task of taking a large number of people into the Promised Land.  Moses needed God's wisdom applied in his every moment, and so do we.
     Secondly, when we realize the brevity of life, we are more highly motivated to work on our relationship with God and our fellow man.  We so often put off till tomorrow what we should have done returning a phone call left on a voice mail, writing an email to a friend who is hurting, taking time to visit others, putting aside time to study God's Word and pray to name a few.  If we thought that we would not be around tomorrow, wouldn't we want to make certain that we told our family members and friends that we loved them?  Wouldn't we want to make amends for any wrong doing?  Sad to say, we often postpone these things thinking we have lots of time to communicate with others.  Now is the time to do these things because tomorrow is not guaranteed.
     Another reason we should live like there is no tomorrow is that it causes us to develop goals and a greater sense of vision.  Instead of flailing around with our activities and procrastinating, we would be able to determine what is really important and complete the tasks we have set before us.  This helps not only in our jobs but also in our homes.  I can honestly say that when I set a goal for myself I am able to schedule the time more efficiently to get it done.  Otherwise, I will never complete anything.  I speak from experience as over the years I have begun a number of embroidery projects only to put them in the closet till another day.  I had no goal or timetable.  Now I try to set up deadlines and continue to do a little each day to complete the task at hand.  Whether it is a stitching project or a work/ministry endeavor, we need to work like we might not be here tomorrow.  This mindset makes a difference.
     A fourth reason for keeping our life in perspective is that we will become more dedicated to God.  Our present life is brief here on earth, but we will spend eternity with the Father.  Will we be ready to meet Him?  How well do we know Him?  Daily quiet times are so important, yet, we tend to rush out the door thinking we will spend time with God later.  But "later" never happens.  The tyranny of the urgent always  seems to win unless we change our outlook.  How much richer our life could be each day if we would meditate on the Word while we work, enjoy our family and go about our daily routine.  This is the abundant life that Jesus told us we would have in Him.
     Finally, the value we place on the things of this world would radically change if we live like there is no tomorrow.  Jesus told us in Matthew 6:19-21:  "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  God has made us to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.  We will spend a brief 60-100 years on this earth (if we are lucky), but we will spend eternity with Him.  The question is...are we ready?
     Each new day, we need to awaken with praise that we are alive and purpose to glorify God in all that we do.  Living like there is no tomorrow will bring about a shift in our thinking, and help us to live with greater urgency.  My mother used to say, "Time's a wasting" as I wanted to dawdle instead of work.  These are good words of advice in reality.  May our goal be to live each moment to the utmost and work to fulfill God's plan for our lives so we may hear Him say:  "Well done, thou good and faithful servant....enter into the joy of your Master" (Matt. 25:21).  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts on this subject.  Your words of encouragement are read with joy and delight.  Thank you for visiting and leaving your comments.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Fire Prevention 101

Photo courtesy of 
     Following several freezes and having little rain, our area of Florida is very dry and easy tinder for wild fires.  Brush fires are not uncommon this time of year in our state, but they can be devastating if they rage out of control.  A short time ago, a serious brush fire bellowed so much smoke over I 75 that a massive pile-up resulted killing ten people.  In previous years, houses have been damaged and people have had to evacuate neighborhoods until the fire was brought under control.  Certainly, this is no laughing matter.  There is a good deal of destruction that follows in the wake of a fire.
     While we realize the danger which a fire can pose, we often do not realize that within in own lives we carry an inflammatory member with us wherever we go.  If we are not careful how we use it, we can create a good deal of destruction to those around us.  I am referring, of course, to the tongue.  James, in his letter to believers, spoke at length about this member of the body that can create so many problems:

     "How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of
      unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on
      fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.  For every king of beast and bird, of reptile
      and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame
      the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father
      and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth
      come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour
      forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives
      or a grapevine produce figs?  Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water" (James 3:5b-12).
     James is correct to say that our tongues represent a real problem.  I have more than once in my life
caused pain by merely using my tongue as a means of striking back at another.  A word "punch" can often do more damage than a physical one; so when we hear the well used phrase "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me", we must be aware that this is simply not true.  There are so many people out there that have experienced the pain of emotional abuse at the hands of someone whose tongue was unleashed against them.    When it comes from a Christian,  it damages not only the hearer but also shipwrecks the testimony of the one who speaks the words.
Photo courtesy of
     In order to bring our tongue under control, we must rely upon the Holy Spirit and recognize that without God's help we cannot conquer this sin.  Most of us are aware that gossip is destructive, but few of us realize that  we may be  actually telling things we ought not to disclose.  For example, when sharing prayer requests, we do not need to go into great detail about another person's situation.  We may not have all the facts and some of what we say may not be accurate.  The result is that we could be spreading information that could hurt that person.  Secondly, we know that lying or bearing false witness is forbidden in God's commandments, but how often do you tell "little white lies"?  We all have been in a situation where someone asks our opinion, but we are afraid of their reaction to our response.  So, we tell them something that is not true.  It is a lie!  We have all sorts of excuses as to why we needed to do that, but again, we cannot get around the fact that we violated God's command.  Besides, once we start telling a "white lie", we often cannot recall what we said only leading to more trouble in the future.
     All manner of evil speaking comes from that one small member of our body.  Gossip, lying, blasphemy, cursing, slander and false vows have a way of corrupting our entire character and staining our witness for Christ.  Like James, I know what fires and destruction can come when we unleash the tongue.  Jesus said:  "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks"  (Luke 6:46).  Think about that.  What is in our heart, the Lord was saying, is what comes out of our mouth.  This puts things in a whole new perspective.  We can look so good on the outside, but when no one is looking, what do we really say that reflects what is inside our heart?
Photo courtesy of
     Having been a person who is opinionated, assertive, and always ready to answer, I am now learning to hold my tongue.  It is often better to say less and listen more.  An acronym that can help us remember to guard our tongue is the word "THINK".  "T" stands for true.  Is what you are about to say true?  The next letter is "H".  Will what you say be helpful to that person or will it be harmful?  The "I" stands for inspiration.  We are to encourage and inspire one another in Christ.  If we are not doing this, then maybe what we are saying is not a good word.  "N" stands for necessary.  Is it necessary to say something to someone.  If it is, then there are many good ways to say it according to Scripture.  We can bring correction in many ways that will bring the best results.  Finally, the letter "K" means kind.  Are we speaking in a manner that is kind?  Our goal should never be to destroy someone else with our words.  There are many ways to address someone in the English language besides "dumb", "stupid" or "idiotic".
Most importantly, we need to do just what this acronym says before we speak:  THINK!
     Controlling wild fires in Florida is a full time job during the winter months, but so is controlling our tongues.  Without the aid of the Holy Spirit, we cannot do this.  Each morning before we step out into a new day, we need to pray as David did when he said:  "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).  Only we can prevent the fires of hurt by keeping watch over our tongues.  Selah!

I welcome your comments and thoughts.  They are precious to me and I read each one.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Home Grown or Canned?

Picture courtesy of Birdbrook Farm
     Growing up in the rich, fertile farmlands of Northwestern Ohio, I became accustomed to eating some delicious home grown food.  My mother had a garden in the back of our home and we harvested fresh red strawberries, green beans, lima beans, tomatoes, carrots, radishes and sweet corn.  We also had a few apple trees, so we had access to this fruit as well.  Down the road from us my aunt had a lush garden and wonderful red raspberry bushes that produced an abundance of this wonderful fruit.  Each summer was spent picking, eating, and freezing these items so they could be enjoyed throughout the winter months.  I can honestly say that nothing ever tasted better than home grown!
     When we compare something fresh from a garden versus something canned from a grocery store, the item from the garden wins hands down when it comes to full, rich flavor.  Certainly, planting and tending a garden requires a good deal of effort, but the results are worth it.  For the most part, my mother did all the work of tending the garden, but we were blessed with the abundance it produced.
       As I thought about this today, I wondered to myself why we as Christians do not more fully appreciate the sweet, fragrant Word of God we hear preached in our churches on Sunday.  It is a banquet to which we have been invited, and as the Word is proclaimed, our souls are fed and readied for a new week ahead.  We are able to partake of this fresh food which our pastors have labored over in prayer during the week.  Nothing is more delectable, edifying, fulfilling, or blessed than to eat from the Lord's table.  All we have to do is show up and partake.  Yet, there are those who prefer to feed on "canned" food.  They may listen to someone preach on the radio or on a podcast, but it is not the same as sitting in the company of believers and hearing afresh the Gospel preached.
      In the book of Hebrews, the writer admonishes believers to meet together:  "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:23-25).  We have to wonder why anyone would not want to come into fellowship with others to receive not only encouragement but also the feast based upon the Bible which is offered each week.  This is where we find the strength to carry on.
     Perhaps, we do not realize how much the Word changes us in our hearts and thinking when we hear it preached.  Hebrews 4:12 reads:  "For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  It is good food!  We become healthy when we eat it, and our pastors are blessed to prepare weekly in giving us this rich Word.
     Speaking from experience, my family enjoyed the time of planting, cultivating and harvesting our garden.  My mother cooked it, and we sat down to enjoy and savor the bounty that God provided.  It is no different than the church.  We are a family there, and when we come together, sit under the preaching of the Gospel, and experience worship together, our lives are changed.  May we never neglect eating at the banquet table of the Lord weekly.  Likewise, we need to pray for our pastors who labor diligently to study and present God's Word to build up believers.  They are a gift to the Body of Christ, and we need to thank them for their faithful service.  These men bring us a fresh harvest from God's garden each week.  So I ask you, which do you prefer?  Canned or home grown?  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and comments here.  It is a blessing to hear from you!

Picture of people gathered to eat is courtesy of

Friday, February 3, 2012

We Know What's Ahead

     All those pollsters and pundants out there in media land seem to think they can predict with certainty who is going to be the nominee of the Republican party and ultimately who will win the presidency.  There is always a great deal of speculation during an election year, and yet, no one really knows how things will turn out.  Every day there is a new twist and turn which only creates more second guessing.
     In addition to the pollsters and pundants, we also have psychics who make predictions about elections and coming events in the new year.  Lately, there has been a commercial running consistently put out by a financial researcher who is warning of a coming event which will drastically change everything in our country, and bring difficult times. However, no one knows what the future holds but God.
     Within God's Word, we are told that we have a future and a hope.  I Thessalonians 4:13-18 reads:  "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus."  Then, Paul goes on to describe how Jesus will return with a "shout and the trump of God".  He concludes the passage by writing, "Therefore comfort one another with these words."
      Having read this, we can conclude that we really have a hope and a future ahead of us!  This is good news on which we can count.  The world cannot offer us the stability, certainty, or power that defines the Word of God.  Instead, our world system is unstable, uncertain, and fluctuates with every wind of doctrine that floats around.  Perhaps the best news, though, is that the Lord Himself will return for us.  Those who have fallen asleep in Christ and those who are alive when He comes will rise to be with Him forever.  His reign and rule will be perfect.  There will be no more suffering, tears, or heartache.
     What are the odds that this will come to pass, I can hear the pollsters saying?  100% because God and His Word never fail.  We need not grieve or lose hope because we have lost a loved one or because we are having difficult times in this world.  We have a future that the Lord tells us:  "eye hath not seen nor ear heard what has been prepared for those that love the Lord" (I Cor. 2:9).  We cannot imagine in our finite minds how wonderful our future will be.
     So, if life has you down, the elections look bleak, there is no money in the bank and your health isn't all you want it to be....take heart...have hope...for our Lord, Himself will be coming and He will offer us far more than this old world can ever give.  Selah!

I hope you have been encouraged by what you have read today and I ask that you leave a comment to share your thoughts and insights.  It is an encouragement to me and to others who read here.  Blessings!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Doing What We Know We Should Do

     Have you ever wondered what we should be doing until the Lord returns?  It is a question most of us have asked ourselves.  We have all been given gifts, talents and abilities to use for His glory but sometimes, we do not always follow through on our responsibility to God or others.   

  In reading scripture today, I came across a parable which Jesus told to both the people gathered around Him and also to His disciples (Luke 12:41-48).  Peter wasn't clear whether the parable was meant  for the crowds or disciples.  However, in the story, the Lord made it known what we are to be doing when He returns.  He spoke these words:  "...Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?  Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.  Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions" (vs. 42-44).  By contrast, Jesus also describes the servant who wastes his time thinking the master will not come for a while:  "....the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.  And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes...for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more" (vs. 46-48).

     Within these contrasting pictures, we see two types of people.  One is ready and able to do what the Lord has assigned to him.  The other is slacking in responsibility.  James adds even more to the Lord's admonition in his letter when he writes:  "To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17).  This speaks of accountability and responsibility of the believer.  Probably the best illustration of this concept is found in our own homes.  We ask our children to carry out a chore and how to behave in the context of our home life.  Many times, they ignore what we have asked them to do or they put it off as long as they can.  As adults, we are often no different. We know what we should or should not do before the Lord.  We know we should not gossip, tell lies, cheat, steal and many other things which cause us to live ungodly lives.  Yet, we often do just those things, and what if the Lord returns to find us unprepared for His arrival?

     Only, with the power and help of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we be overcomers living for the glory of the Lord.  Nevertheless, we must also desire in our hearts and purpose to live for Jesus as if at any time He will return.  We need to be about what He has called us to do whether it is being a homemaker, a laborer, a secretary, or a volunteer.  Today is the day to start living like He will come any moment.  We need to ask ourselves these questions:  Are you hiding a talent?  Are you neglecting to write, email or call someone that God has put upon your heart?  Are you wasting time or procrastinating about something that the Lord has called you to do?  We need to examine our hearts honestly before our Master.  His burden is easy and His yoke is light.  We only need to be faithful in our call.  Let us be doers of the Word and not hearers only.  Let us be swift to obey and serve our Lord so we may not be found wanting in our service before our God.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts on this subject.  Please feel free to share your comments here as they serve to encourage me and others who read.  Blessings!