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!! 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Nobody Likes to be Disciplined

30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” 31 While the words were still in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you, (Daniel 4:30-31).
            This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.Were you ever told that as a child? I never believed that phrase. I’m sure I at least thought that when disciplining my children if not said it outright. But think about it. Can discipline be painful for both painful for the parent and profitable for the child? Yes. I certainly did not like having to discipline my children at all. At times, it broke my heart, but it had to be done. My girls absolutely did not consider it profitable at the time, but I believe it was.
            It should come as no surprise that your Heavenly Father sometimes willingly disciplines you for your betterment. This does not mean that he delights in seeing you punished. God has a plan for you life. It involves things that are for your good and His glory. Consequently, He reserves the right to do whatever it takes to pull you toward Him and set your feet firmly on the paths of righteousness.
            Nebuchadnezzar made to grave mistakes. First, he boasted that he had built Babylon. Anytime you take credit that God alone deserves, you create the need for Him to discipline you. Our God is a jealous God and will not share His glory. The second mistake was having the wrong motivation—“the honor of my majesty.” Desiring praise that God alone deserves is idolatry. Your goal as a disciple of Christ is living a holy life, not one filled by the praises of man.
            God responded accordingly; He discipline Nebuchadnezzar. Make no mistake; God resists the proud (James 4:6). Scripture says that right after pride comes the fall (Proverbs 16:18; 29:23). Are you actively and willfully doing things that would invoke God’s discipline? God never does it to hurt His children but to allow them to be chastened for His holy purposes. Nebuchadnezzar learned his lesson. Daniel 4 ends with him giving God the praise and glory and receiving God’s restoration. When you pursue holiness, God will liberally pour out grace and blessing in your life. What are you pursuing? I encourage you to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the other stuff will be added to your life. Go and be a blessing to someone this week as you pursue holiness!!

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Are you Part of the Lord's Secret Service?

3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Matthew 6:3)
            There is a thing in our country called the Secret Service. Their job is to protect the president. If you look out into a crowd of people, you may not even spot which ones are agents. Up close, you may notice an earpiece that would give them away, but unless you are looking closely, you still may not be able to recognize them in a crowd. Their service is secret and unannounced. They is they way they want it. They want to blend in and be able to stop any threat that may occur.
            In our congregation, we also have a few that are among the secret service. But unlike the ones that serve the president, these agents serve the One True King. It is their job to do things like mow the church yard, buy the paper products for the restrooms, clean the kitchen, and sweep the auditorium. Unless you catch them in the act, you’d never realize they were serving the King. These agents do not do it for the recognition that comes from people. They do it to please God by serving others around them. There are tons of jobs around our congregation that get done with any hoopla or fanfare, and that is just the way these secret agents want it.
            I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the secret agents in our congregation. You exhibit the true heart of a servant of God by serving others. I know you don't do it for the recognition or the praise, but THANK YOU. Keep up the good work. Your Father in heaven is looking down and smiling upon you. God bless you and your efforts. Take heart, your reward is piling up where moths, rust, or thieves can get to it. If you are not in the Lord’s Secret Service, join today!! Find somewhere that you can serve and get going. The Lord will bless you all the more for your efforts!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Telltale of Our Priorities

31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
            There was an elderly man sitting alone on a park bench. He was enjoying the beautiful day when a younger man from his church joined him. Their conversation was that of exchanging mere pleasantries at first, but it soon turned to deeper topic. The younger man was truly anxious to serve God and wanted to know how to tell if God was first in his life. During their conversation the elderly man noticed that the younger man looked at his schedule on his phone. He also noticed the younger man returning his debit card, which had slipped out, to his pocket. The older man asked to hold both his phone and his debit card. The younger man was puzzled by the request but gave both to him.
            The older man turned the card and the phone over and over in his hands. He said, “Son, I want you to examine both of these very carefully. You see, our real priorities are always revealed by the way we spend our time and our money. The younger man looked over his phone’s calendar and his debit card and realized that his work and his hobbies had consumed way too much of his time and money, leaving only a scant amount of either for the Lord.
            Many of us will be quick to say that God is first in our lives, but our actions tell a markedly different tale. We believe that God blesses those who give, but we rarely give to the Lord’s work. We believe that the Lord honors those who obey His Word, but we constantly ignore His teachings when we are making decisions about our time or money.
            Our walk with the Heavenly Father seems to get the left overs instead of the first fruits of our time and money. We too often devote our time, energy, and resources to other things. If we are truly “seeking first the kingdom of God” our activities will show it! Focus on giving God what He deserves not what’s left over this week. May God richly bless you my loved ones!!

This Week's Bible Trivia Question:
What synagogue first disputed with Stephen before he was stoned?

Last Week’s Answer:   the Beautiful Gate;  Acts 3:2