Thursday, March 26, 2020

What are you looking for?

Seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)
            King George V wrote on the flyleaf of the Bible of a friend: “The secret of happiness is not to do what you like to do, but to learn to like what you have to do.” There is a big difference between doing what you want to do and doing what you have to do. Sometimes they are the same, but most of the time they are not. For me, there is a cosmic difference between playing golf and paying my bills.
            Too many people think that happiness is an elusive, will-o’-the-wisp thing to be found only by constant pursuit and relentless searching. Yet, happiness is not an end in and of itself. It is not a destination. It is a byproduct of something greater. Jesus told His disciples: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). The “things” He spoke of were the basic needs of life: food, drink, clothes, shelter. He told us not to make these things the chief goal of our lives, but we must “seek righteousness and the Kingdom of God.”
            This seeking, if we will take it, is the secret of happiness. When we seek first the Kingdom of God, our lives will be filled with happiness. The problem is that the devil will do anything he can to prevent you from seeking the Kingdom. He does not want you to be truly happy serving God and doing what is right. He tries to lure us with the shiny lures of this life: money, big houses, luxury cars, sexual pleasures, and fat bank accounts.
            So how do we focus on seeking the Kingdom and obtaining this happiness? By submitting ourselves without reserve to Jesus Christ. He must be King and Lord in our lives. We must live for Him every day. This is the path that will lead us to true happiness. I hope you have already come to this realization. If not, I encourage you to investigate this thoroughly. You won’t regret it! May you stay focused on God during our time of quarantine. And may He bless you richly, my loved ones!
- David

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

God Loves Us More

16 His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, this is my friend, daughters of Jerusalem. (Song of Solomon 5:16)
            Have you ever seen those couples at a restaurant who are leaning in toward each other or even sitting on the same side of the booth? One will speak and the other will listen intently to what they are saying. Generally that type of focus is a result of some intense admiration. My wife and I did that when we first started dating. I would put my arm around her or hold her hand for an entire movie. It seems that when you are that taken with someone, you just can't seem to get enough of what they have to say. You find yourself hanging on every word.
            It is the beloved’s words that are sweetest to the female speaker. His words are what she longs for and enjoys in verse above. The more she hears those words, the more she comes to say, “This is my love. This is my friend.”
            It’s a similar situation in our relationship with Christ. To keep our love and devotion for our Lord healthy and strong, the lines of communication have to be kept open. The WWII soldier is a great example of this. Before cell phones and emails, the man overseas had to write letters to his sweetheart. His words were what assured her of his love and calmed her anxieties. He knew that sending his thoughts home on paper, full of his words of affection for her, would keep her going while he was away. His sentiments made her miss him. And in missing him, she wanted to be with him more and more. The words are what brought them close, even though they were miles, continents apart.
            Jesus’ words to us are found in the Bible. We call it the Word of God. I have even heard it called ‘66 love letters’ to God’s children. By spending time with His words, we get to know Him. The more we come to know Him, the more we find that we love Him. In time, we begin to realize that not only has Christ become the greatest love of our lives, He has become, and is, our Friend. May you love God with all your heart and love others as yourself this week!! And may God rain blessings in your life, my loved ones!!

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Face to Face

3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:3-5)
            Is there room for improvement in your walk with Jesus? I don't think I have ever met anyone with an ounce of honesty who doesn't see the opportunity for improvement in their spiritual journey. We wake up each morning with a ton of blessings whether we realize it or not. In Lamentations 3:22-23, Jeremiah said, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Being spiritually responsible with all that we are and all that we possess in a huge challenge. Improvement in our walk with Jesus and our spiritual responsibility is not a simply a decision we make. It has to be a lifestyle that we actually live out. So how do we begin to take steps in the correct direction?
            Clear footprints in the right direction can be seen with what God called Moses to do on the mountain in Exodus 3. We are a people who get far too busy. The everyday demands of our lives have a tendency to completely fill our thoughts and our time if we are not careful. We forget to look in God’s direction. Moses was going about his everyday routine when God attracted his attention. Moses saw something that day that changed his life. 
            The first step to improving our journey with Jesus is to be willing to step aside from our everyday normal routine and take time to encounter the supernatural. When we turn our eyes in God’s direction, it does not take a burning bush to change our lives forever. When we stop to listen to God and we look around and see what He is doing in the world, it ignites our very souls. It sets us aflame to burn brighter and brighter.
            It would seem like common sense to say that shoes are required for a more responsible walk with Jesus, but what is really needed are bare feet—feet that acknowledge the holy nature of an encounter with our Lord and Savior. The more we recognize the grace-filled privilege we have to encounter the God of all creation, the more we will turn aside from our ordinary, normal routine and come face to face with the extraordinary that is Jesus. He is the One who changes everything. I sincerely hope you have a face-to-face encounter with Him this week. I hope that His face shines upon and His smile fills you with joy. May God richly bless you as you are being a blessing to others this week!!

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fighting Off Temptation

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
            It seems a lot of things in our world operate on my southern heritage used to call the ‘good ole boy system.’ Or maybe you have heard it like this, “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I think many times that is true when you are trying to accomplish something here on earth, but the system breaks down and falls short when you are fighting temptation. Being in a proper relationship with God is of the utmost importance. But when temptation comes along, it is crucial to know God’s Word.
            In Matthew 4, we have a record of Jesus being led into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan. Each time the devil tempted Him He answered with Scripture from Deuteronomy. He used Scripture to refute the devil’s lies. He didn't negotiate with Satan. He didn't try to rationalize about the things He was being with. He simply countered the devil’s lies with God’s truth.
            When we are being tempted, and that happens often, it is vital that we use the same method that Jesus used. Too often, we try to justify the temptation, or we try to resist the devil with our own power and strength. But, honestly, we are no match for Satan in our flesh. However, when we have studied, memorized, and meditated upon God’s Word, we are able to readily use God’s truth to resist the temptation. David put it this way in one of my favorite psalms, Psalm 119:11, “11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.”
            We need to be in God’s Word every day. We need to meditate on it and memorize it. So when we are tempted, we can quickly respond with it. It worked for our Savior, and it will work for us too!! Have a blessed week and go be a blessing to someone who really needs it!!

Where is your Focus?

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:25-26)
            It seems like every time I turn around I am seeing another report or study documenting the fact that we are worrying ourselves to death. Our society is leaning more heavily each day on the use of drugs to deal with worry and depression. It seems like too many people are on “something” to deal with the anxieties of life. Let’s face it, our culture keeps turning up the pressure to perform and conform. It may be work, finances, kids, marriage, parents, health, emotional problems, or any of a host of other issues that we are dealing with. Everyone seems to have something happening in their lives that no one else seems to understand.
            Are you dealing with something in your life about which you might say, “Not even God can do something about it?” Maybe you would not actually say that out loud, but your actions are giving you away. We have let the world minimize the power of God and blow our circumstances way out of proportion. This is not the way that God meant for us to live. We have let the world convince us that there is a ceiling or a cap on what God can do. It is as if we think He has a power limit that He cannot go beyond. Our Scripture today says that God gave special attention to the birds of the air and to the flowers of the field. Surely He can deal with the situations faced by the ones He created in His own image. We are the ones for whom He made this world.
            Worry is about where you are placing your focus. Are you putting it on the plan that God has for your life or on the things of this world? When you put Him first, your anxiety will lessen drastically. The Lord can handle anything that you will face on any given day. You are the manager of what He has given you. He will always make the right decision. Put your trust in Him. God bless you this week! And go be a blessing to someone around you!!

The Terms of Our Agreement

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)
            We often refer to the poser of the above question as the “rich, young ruler.” And it is true—he was all of those things. Though, still young, he had already established himself as a leader within the Jewish community. It is also true that he was quite wealthy. In addition to, or even in spite of those two things, he was also a morally upstanding man, having kept God’s commandments from his early youth. His desire to learn more about spiritual matters drove him to run to Jesus, bow at His feet, and ask the most significant question a person can ask, “How can I obtain eternal life?”
            The Lord’s showed compassion on him and was moved to tell him the one thing that he lacked in his endeavor. Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). Jesus was known for His wisdom and insight into people’s lives. With this one, He bored deep into the young man’s heart and identified the crux of the matter—the one thing keeping him from surrendering fully to Jesus and following Him. 
            The rich, young ruler arrived at the correct Teacher at the best time with the most pressing question of humanity and received the right answer. It is a question and answer about the sincerity and depth of our surrender to Jesus. The rich, young ruler’s started off in a very promising way. That makes the end of the story even more heartbreaking. “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22).
            Can you picture the scene? The rich, young ruler was kneeling at Jesus feet—that is, until he heard the answer to his question. He slowly got up from his knees and slowly turned his back on Jesus. He had come face-to-face with the only begotten Son of God in human flesh. He had been offered eternal life straight from the lips of the Messiah. Yet he walked away downtrodden, unhappy and unsaved. Why? He refused to surrender everything to Jesus. This tragic account reminds us today of a simple yet profound reality: we cannot truly follow Jesus on our own terms. We have to follow Jesus on His terms—the terms of total and unconditional surrender. If we are not following Jesus on His terms, then we are not really following Jesus at all. What do you need to change to follow Him on His terms? Go be a blessing to someone this week and share the grace and love of Jesus to everyone! God Bless!!  

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Bitter Taste of Being Bitter

10 The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy. (Proverbs 14:10)
            I may have written on this topic before but please listen again… Have you ever heard the phrase ‘misery loves company’? Each day we encounter people who are just full of anger and bitterness. It seems like they want to pull you down into their suffering. These bitter people have been wounded. Too often they do not seek help but let that hurt fester inside of them. As a consequence, they lash out and hurt others. And these bitter people do not have to be strangers—they can be a friend, a co-worker, a fellow church member, a family member, or even your spouse.
            So how do we go about dealing with someone who is holding onto that anger or bitterness? God gives us the answer in Ephesians 4:32, “32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” We exhibit a Christlike attitude toward someone when we are kind to them. Jesus blessed those who cursed Him. This tenderheartedness is being moved with the compassion of Christ toward that person. Jesus was hanging on the cross and asked the Father to “Forgive them for they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34). When we forgive that angry person, it means that we do know hold their sin against them in future dealings. The grace of God we find in Christ empowers us to have this kind of supernatural attitude. It propels us to supernatural actions—namely true forgiveness. The only way we can forgive these angry and bitter people is to exercise the forgiveness that we have been shown in Christ Jesus. 
            When we encounter someone who is bitter and offends us, we have a choice. We can respond the way the world responds—bitterness and anger right back at them. Or we can respond the way that Jesus would want us to respond—with compassion for their suffering and understanding for what they have been through. If we are to make disciples, we must meet people where they are in their lives and go from there. If we expect people to clean up their lives Before they come to our gatherings, we will never make disciples at all because it is only through the power of Jesus Christ that our lives are changed. Go be a blessing and light in the community and meet people where they are. Oh, and bring Jesus with you—they desperately need to meet Him!! Have a great and godly week!!