Do you have a dear friend or a member of your family who you constantly worry about and pray for because he or she is not saved? A Philippian jailer once asked Paul and Silas “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31 KJV) For years, I have told folks who come to me voicing this concern to memorize Acts 16:31 and take it as God’s promise to them. I do this knowing full well that nine out of ten bible teachers will say that this particular promise was only for the Philippian jailer and his family and will give many bible scriptures to prove it. I realize that by doing so, I may be theologically incorrect and may be misrepresenting God’s word. Because of it, I have asked the Lord to forgive me if that is the case, believing that He would, in one way or another, convince me to stop this erroneous practice. He hasn’t yet.
I do not believe that God will be displeased with me for telling folks who wrestle with this question to take Acts 16:31 as a promise. Apart from His word, I also trust in His character. I choose to believe as the old gospel song says: : “what He’s done for others, He will do for you.” I choose to remember that God has no favorites. (Acts 10:34) I also take I John 5:14 as a promise. It says: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” Is it not according to God’s will that no one perish? Does the bible not say in 2 Peter 3:9 that “He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”? God is more interested than we are in the salvation of our loved ones.
Over two thousand years ago, a Canaanite woman who was pleading for her daughter’s demonic deliverance heard Jesus tell her that He had been sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. He added: “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” (Matthew 15:26) In her desperation she replied: “yet the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Did Jesus rebuke her? No, He commended her for her faith and answered her prayer. God forgive me if I’m wrong, but maybe its not such a bad thing to be theologically incorrect from time to time. Of course, people have to believe in Christ and receive Him in their hearts before they can be saved. That’s what you’re praying for in the first place, isn’t it? And when God answers your prayer, that is exactly what will happen. That person, who many considered hopeless or too far gone, will do just that. Amazingly, he or she will turn to Jesus, ask His forgiveness, and invite Him in. Believe it! Take it as a promise!
God’s word for today: (Psalm 13:5) “But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.”
At the onset of His Sermon on the mount, known by many as the Beatitudes, Jesus made this declaration: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9) You know, I love the many verses in the Bible which are self explanatory. This is one of them. What else can a “peacemaker” be other than being a person who not only makes peace, but one who is at peace with everything and everybody, beginning with God. One notable minister of the gospel has said: “When one has the peace of God, it is because he has peace with God.”
In these beatitudes, Jesus painted a picture of the character of the genuine children of God. They are humble, meek, tenderhearted, merciful, pure in heart, and of course, people of peace. If Jesus is indeed the Prince of Peace, it stands to reason that His followers will be a little bit like Him. It is out of character for a child of God to have running feuds with others, be in severed relationships, or hold grudges, especially with fellow Christians. In fact, anyone who wants to serve the Lord but often gets into quarrels is disqualified. In his second letter to Timothy, Paul wrote: “A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.” (2 Tim. 2:24 New Living Translation) Personally speaking, if I knew someone had something against me and I had made no effort to do something about it, or if I knew I had offended someone and had not asked his or her forgiveness, I would find it extremely difficult to even write a blog message.
To be a peacemaker is to have the wisdom of God. James 3:17 reads: “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.” Are you at peace today? Is your heart at rest? If you can’t answer “yes” and you are a child of God, may I encourage you to run to the Prince of Peace? He will surely help you.
God’s promise for today: (Philippians 4:7) “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Before His date with the cross of Calvary, Jesus was a guest in the house of a man known as Simon the leper. It is reasonable to believe that this man, no longer a leper, healed by Christ Himself, invited Him into his house as a token of his appreciation. While He was in the house, a woman came and poured a expensive ointment on His head. In those days, such an act was a sign of great respect and many bible scholars believe the woman was Mary, Lazarus’ sister, since it happened in their hometown of Bethany. This act of love and devotion did not go well at all with the Disciples because they thought that such a costly perfume could have been sold with the proceeds going to the poor. In other words, they viewed it as a waste. What they couldn’t understand yet was that in anything that is done for Christ, what matters most is the intent of the heart. In fact, in any good work that is done for Christ or for others because of love for Him, God always looks at the heart. Because that is true, Jesus corrected His Disciples’ position by saying: “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me.” (Matthew 26:10) Three verses later, we read that He also said: “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
Today, our entire nation is honoring those who have or are serving in the military branches, and rightfully so, in particular those who paid the ultimate price. I am glad that someone long ago was wise enough to set apart a particular day every year to honor our veterans. After God, we have what we have because of their sacrifice. Think about this: If Jesus commanded that the story of the woman who poured an expensive ointment on His head be told alongside the gospel message, can you imagine how He feels about those who have given their lives for others? May we never forget to honor and be grateful to them.
By the same token, I trust you will never forget this eternal truth: Anything you do for Christ or for others because of your love for Him, is worthy to be memorialized by Him. In other words, He will never forget it. And like the woman in the story, once in a while what you do for the Lord will not only be misunderstood by others, it may be criticized as well. Please don’t let that stop or discourage you. In fact, maybe someday, what you have done in His name may also become a story many will share for many generations.
God’s word for today: (2 Corinthians 5:14) “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died.”
As I was reading yesterday in the 12th Chapter of John, these two verses caught my attention: “Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (verses 20-21) Devout Jews from all parts of the world had gathered in Jerusalem for the impending Feast of the Passover. Among those in the city on that particular day were some Greeks. It is not known if they were Jews from Greece or just Gentile worshippers who were there for the festivities. Regardless, they wanted to see Jesus and they approached Philip, one of the Disciples, to see if he would grant them their wish.
If these were Jews who were qualified to participate in the feast, they may have wanted to see and hear Jesus in advance for themselves being aware that, for whatever reason, the Jewish religious leaders of the day not only opposed Him, they hated Him as well. If they were Gentiles, they knew they were not allowed in the temple but since they had heard so much about Jesus, they may have come to Jerusalem for that very reason, to see if they could meet and know Him. However, this is the part of the story I want to focus on. It is Philip. For one reason or another, these Greeks came to the one man who they were sure could lead them to Jesus. Neither do I know if they were sure he was one of the twelve, but obviously they knew he had been with Him. I am a very simple minded person and when I read that the first word they said when they approached Philip was “sir”, to me it simply meant that he had displayed qualities that demand respect. Remembering yesterday’s blog, they liked Philip as a person even though they may have still been unbelievers. I repeat the bottom line to yesterday’s blog: If people in the world like us, it should not alarm us. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
If you are like Philip and have had the experience of people approaching you requesting prayer, advice, questions about the bible or life in general, know what church you attend, or just want to know how come you’re so different than most people, I commend you. This would mean that, just like Philip, people around you either know or suspect that you belong to Christ. Whether we are like Philip or not, perhaps we can consider making this one of our prayers to God: “Lord, I want to be like Philip.”
God’s word for today: (Philippians 3:10) “that I may know Him (Jesus) and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”
There is a misconception among God’s children that it is a bad sign when people in the world like us and don’t say anything negative about us. One pastor I know has often remarked “I would be very worried if everybody in the world likes me.” Perhaps he, and many other Christians feel this way because of their interpretation of certain bible verses. Here are two examples: “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” (James 4:4) “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14) These two verses could be seen as a confirmation to that belief, so it is understandable that some would feel uneasy if most people in the world like them. However, just like stories, every issue has two sides. Let’s take a look at the other one.
In the 15th Chapter of John, we have the account of Jesus’ discourse with His Disciples. Here, He was announcing His death, resurrection, and the coming of the Holy Spirit as well as preparing them for what was to come. This was one of the things He told them: “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (verses 18-19) I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “If is a very big word and sometimes changes everything” And I’m also sure you noticed that the first word Jesus used in this declaration was the word “if.” Of course, there will be times when we share the gospel with others that they will not like what they heard. If they resent it, they may resent us as well.
Consider this too: When advising Timothy of the qualifications of the church’s ministers, here was one of them: “He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, (the world) so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.” (1 Timothy 3:7) The truth is that if we display Christlike qualities many people in the world will like us, even if they don’t believe or accept the gospel. One noteworthy verse regarding the priest and prophet, Samuel, says this: “And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men.” (I Samuel 2:26) So we see that a child of God can find favor even among the people in the world. Bottom line: It is not necessarily a bad thing if people in the world like us. In fact, Jesus said that if we let our light shine before men, (the world) they will see our good works and glorify Him. (See Matthew 5:16) Lets make a good effort to glorify the Lord.
God’s promise for today: (Daniel 12:3) “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”
Malachi 3:10 is a bible verse which is very often misunderstood. Because of it, it is not very popular among it’s readers. The reason it is misunderstood is because many people view it as an indictment and condemnation. The truth is that it is the opposite. It is God’s invitation to a blessing. Here’s what it says: “Bring all the tithes into the storehouse that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.” (Malachi 3:10)
Many will present the argument that Malachi’s message was given specifically to God’s people in his time but one thing that can not be disputed is God’s unchanging character. He still blesses those who give their offerings faithfully. In fact, Jesus said in New Testament times: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:38) This, just like the previous verse, is an invitation to a blessing. If you give, you will receive.
There are many good people who don’t give to their church or for the Lord’s work simply because they are afraid they won’t have enough left to live on. Please understand that God does not want us to give what we don’t have; neither does He want us to give our tithes and offerings if it is not in our hearts to do so. And while it is true that God loves a cheerful giver, (See 2 Corinthians 9:7) those who take Him at His word and give will be blessed indeed. One more thing: It is obvious that God is a generous and giving God. That being the case, God’s children should be generous and giving as well. Don’t be afraid! Take a step of faith. You’ll be glad you did.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 33:12) “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.”
Even though we, as God’s children, know better, our human nature kicks in more often than it should when it concerns prayer. Tell me if you have said or heard similar phrases such as these: (1) “Oh no, I never ask prayer for myself. I’ve already bothered the Lord too much with my many prayers for my family and friends.” (2) No, I never ask the Lord for any little thing that comes to my head. That would be selfish” (3) “God has bigger and more important things to worry about in this world. He’s too busy to pay attention to my unimportant prayers.” (4) “Why should I ask God for anything? He should know already what I want and need.”
Here are some bible truths that dispel these foolish ideas: (1) A great prophet of old once said: “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee.” (Jeremiah 32:17) Does it matter that we have already prayed for all the people we know? Does God not have the power to answer the prayer of every person in the world at the same time? (2) Proverbs 3:6 says that we should “In all our ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct our paths.” To me, this means that we can ask His help in anything. (3) Jesus said: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (Matthew 10:29) If a little bird’s life is important to God, imagine how much more important you are to Him. Regarding prayer, I tell our church members often: “If it is important to you, it is important to God.” (4) A blind man by the name of Bartimaeus was brought before the Lord and “Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight.” (Mark 10:51) I’m sure you know that Jesus knew in advance what this blind man needed. Yet, He wanted to to hear his petition. Is it any different with you and me? Does He not know what we need even before we ask? Even so, He wants us to ask Him. May we never forget that God always wants to hear from us and may we never find an excuse not to pray.
God’s word for today: (1 Thessalonians 5:17) “Pray without ceasing.”
Three men were traveling by car to an out-of-town engagement. One of them said: “Hey, we’ve been on the road for over four hours, don’t you think its time to stop somewhere to eat?” The driver said: “Yes, I’m hungry too, but can we stop somewhere where we can get something cheap? We’re paying for our son’s college education and frankly its drained our finances and we can’t afford too many things.” The man on the passenger side said: “Oh how I wish my son would want to go to college.” To that, the man in the back seat replied: “Boy, how I wish I had a family.” After he heard that, the driver felt ashamed that he had complained about having to pay for his son’s education and said: “You guys choose where you want to eat; I’ll pay.”
Very few people are willing to admit it but our basic human instinct is to grumble, complain, and be selfish. If anybody wants to protest and say I’m not like that, you may be 50%right. You may be thinking “I’m not selfish because Jesus lives in my heart.” If that’s the case, good for you. Nevertheless, because God knows how easy it is for us to forget who we are from time to time, He chose to put this word of advice in the bible: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interest of others.” (Philippians 2:4) In other words, don’t be selfish and never think you’re the only one who has troubles.
I was reminded of this issue earlier this morning. I remembered that yesterday afternoon, I was upset that my wife and I missed a traffic light cycle because we had to pull over and get out of the way of a fire truck behind us. Then I heard this morning about the young fireman who lost his life in a fire last night in San Antonio. I felt ashamed and even more convicted when I saw the heartbreaking images of his fellow firefighters standing in a row saluting him as his ambulance took him away. I’m pretty sure I will remember that the next time I see a fire truck racing to a call. Think hard: the last time you grumbled or complained about somebody or some situation, was it justified? I thought so.
God’s word for today: (Isaiah 53:6) “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him (Christ) the iniquity of us all.”
I am not as big a fan as I used to be, but boxing is still one of my favorite sports. In fact, as strange as it may sound, I’ve learned a lot about life and human nature in general by the countless fights I’ve seen throughout the years. Recently, in a highly publicized championship fight, I was reminded of one objective I see often in many boxers. I am referring to those whose primary goal in the match is to keep from being knocked out. They may be beaten badly but if they can avoid a KO, it will be a personal triumph for them and one day they’ll be able to say they went 12 rounds with the champion of the world. Can you see what is wrong with this kind of thinking? They are fighting for the championship of the world but instead of striving to win, they are content with just surviving. To me, that is similar to a football or basketball team which concentrates almost entirely on playing defense. Bottom line: if they don’t score, they can’t win.
Sadly, that same mindset is demonstrated in the lives of many Christians in regards to sin. They are so focused on avoiding sin that they forget we have also been equipped to wage spiritual warfare. I John 3:9 says: “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” With this bible verse in mind, many Christians make it their primary goal to avoid sinning at all cost. To them, to see sin in their lives make them wonder if they are really saved in the first place. In the original Greek text, this verse clearly spoke of those who continue to sin. In other words, they practice it. Those who practice sin on a regular basis are clearly not God’s children. Keep in mind that John also wrote: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) Of course God wants us to avoid sin. In no way do I want to minimize it’s importance. But because we fall into it from time to time, God also has made provision for our forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration.
What does this mean for you and me? In general terms, God wants our lives to be balanced. To use a sports term, He wants us to play both defense and offense. If you remember the process in Ephesians, Chapter 6, we have the spiritual armor of God as our defense, but we also have “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (vs. 17) for our offense. To avoid sin is very important, but equally important are God’s Word and the spiritual gifts He has bestowed upon us. Besides striving to live a life that honors and pleases our Heavenly Father, let’s use the Word, love, and the gifts God has given us to serve and benefit those around us.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 37:3) “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”
As a man and his family went on vacation, their neighbor promised to keep an eye on their cat while they were gone. Three days into their vacation, the neighbor called the man and said: “your cat is dead.” The news jolted the man but he was also very angry at his neighbor’s bluntness and lack of common sense. When he asked for all the details, the neighbor gave all the steps that led to the cat’s demise. After lecturing his neighbor on the proper way of breaking bad news to people. He said: “Look, this is how you should have broken the news to me: Your cat was up on the roof last night and some dogs noticed and started barking at her. She got spooked so she jumped off the roof but landed right where the dogs were. They got a hold of her, chewed her up, and killed the poor thing.” The neighbor thanked him for the good advice and hung up. Two nights later he called his vacationing neighbor again. This time he started the conversation by saying: “Ken, your mother-in-law was up on the roof last night………” you get the picture. Right?
To the bad-news-calling neighbor’s defense, with some people you have to tell them everything clearly or else they won’t get it. You may remember the time when Jesus told His disciples about the death of their friend, Lazarus. They didn’t get it at first because he told them he was “sleeping.” They knew that Lazarus had been ill so when they heard he was sleeping, they said: “Lord, if he sleeps he will get better.” That’s when Jesus had to tell them plainly “Lazarus is dead.” You can read the whole story in the 11th Chapter of John.
As far as God’s children are concerned, we should always be clear in our messages and conversations, especially when we're sharing the gospel. When we speak to others, we should not beat around the bush. Some of you that know today’s Mexican culture, have probably heard the words “chifletas” or “indirectas.” In the English language they are called “innuendos.” If not our common sense, God’s grace can help us get our point across to others when we have to tell them something or get something off our chest. Paul, In his letter to the Ephesians, wrote that, as God’s children, we should be mature and that by “speaking the truth in love” we will grow up to be more like Christ. (See Eph. 4:11-15) Next time you have to tell somebody something important, make it as clear as possible. And if you pray about it beforehand and “speak the truth in love”, everything will work out fine.
God’s word for today: (Galatians 6:1) “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
Reading in the 2nd Chapter of Peter earlier this morning, I came upon this timely word of advice: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (verse 15) It is really a part of a bigger set of instructions to God’s children about the way we should conduct ourselves in the world. If there is one thing that repels the criticism and false accusations God’s people face on a regular basis, it is right living. Whether we like it or not, all eyes are upon us, so it behooves us to ask God constantly to help us to be good representatives of Christ. Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
The moment you declare, even hint, that you are a Christian, those around you will keep a closer eye on you than before. When you don’t live up to their concept of what a Christian should be, they’ll be the first ones to bring it to your attention. I had a co-worker many years ago who provided that service for me. I told him once to bring it to my attention anytime he would see me doing or saying something “unchristian.” He faithfully complied and anytime he would suspect that I was getting out of hand, he would say “Hey Sam, settle down!” He knew my middle name is Samuel and by calling me that he was suggesting that I was straying just a bit. The truth is that it benefits us if we have such people in our lives, those who warn us when are being “unchristian” even if they themselves are not believers.
So the next time someone calls us out for speech or behavior that is not in line with godly character, lets thank God for it. Whether the accusation is true or not, and whether it was done with good or bad intentions, it will be a reminder to us that the world is watching us. It will also remind us that by what we do and say, we can either be a blessing and benefit to others, or else we may push them farther away from Christ.
God’s word for today: (Ephesians 5:8) “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now ye are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.”
Yesterday, one of you brought to my mind the beautiful Hymn “Sweet Hour Of Prayer.” I decided to look up it’s lyrics for the purpose of refreshing my memory of it’s message and the more I read the more it inspired me to write about it today, since prayer is one of my favorite topics. More specifically, I am speaking of that special sweet time of communion with our Heavenly Father many folks have discovered. I’m sure you have heard some of God’s children speak of their “quiet time” with Him. Well, the message of this beautiful hymn written in 1845 by William W. Walford is a much better description of our “quiet times” with the Lord than I could have come up with, so today I want to highlight them for you.
It’s author began by saying that the sweet hour of prayer took him away temporarily from the cares of this world and into his Father’s throne. It was the time when he could express his wants and wishes to Him in the midst of the distress and grief of this life. It was at this time his soul would find relief and would shield him from the tempter’s snare. It was a time he anxiously looked for each day, a time when true joy and bliss would fill his soul as he waited for His Savior to meet him there. He also implied a truth we should all keep in mind, namely that God desires these special quiet times with His children more than they do. It is He who bids us to believe in His Word and trust His grace, to cast on Him our every prayer. He ends his song by asking His comfort while here on earth until the day when he takes his flight to his eternal Home where he will receive his heavenly prize. And as he passes through the air, he will shout “Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!” Without a doubt, this means that, even though our “quiet times” are precious to us, we won’t have any more “sweet hours of prayer” once we’re in Heaven. Why not? In Heaven, it won’t be an hour, it will be forever!
Dear child of God, have you discovered the joy and bliss one gets in a genuine “quiet time” with God, a “sweet hour of prayer?” I encourage you to do all you can to truly seek the face of your Heavenly Father. As the author of this hymn testified, it will be the time where you are transported away from the cares of this world. And remember this: He wants to have these special times with you even more than you do. John wrote: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Is asking God to help us develop a better prayer life with Him according to His will? You bet! Once you discover the joy and sweetness that are very much a part of the “quiet times” you’ll be eagerly awaiting it each new day.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 42:8) “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life.”
I had an incident last Friday that confirmed one particular biblical truth. We were utilizing a gift certificate to one of our favorite restaurants and as soon as we were seated, I reached out for one of the rolls set before us so that I could cut in half and butter it even more. The problem was that the knives in our napkin were steak knives and not butter knives. That being said, I sliced the tip of my index finger instead. It was a fairly small cut but I bleed easily. Thank God that my wife had a band aid in her purse and, using part of a napkin, made a makeshift but effective bandage. Because of it, our meal had no more interruptions and we enjoyed it like we always do. On Sunday morning, I had a newer and more secure bandage on my index finger and felt everything was going on as usual, that is, until I tried putting on my tie. That usually takes me less than a minute but this time, I struggled so long that I almost gave up. Although it didn’t come out the way I expected, by God’s grace I finally succeeded. The biblical truth it reminded me of was this: The tip of my index finger is a very small member of my body, yet it is very necessary. Life just wouldn’t be the same without it.
In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he reminded them that the church is one body which is comprised of many members. (parts) Though some are bigger and seem to be more crucial than others, even the small members/parts are necessary. He wrote: “Nay, much more those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary.” (1 Cor. 12:22) If I wasn’t totally convinced of that eternal truth before, I am now. In the human body, some parts get more credit and are given more care and attention than others. For example, we shudder at the fear of not having full use of our eyes, arms, legs, and feet, etc. It is the same at work, home, and even church. We often worry about what we would do if we didn’t have our leaders and more prominent people, never realizing just how crucial and how much we need the least prominent members.
One reason that I brought up this incident about my index finger cut is because many people in the workplace, home, and even church often sell themselves short, not realizing just how important and necessary they are. Another truth is that God has placed us all in the body exactly where we belong. I Corinthians 12:18 says that He: “has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” Regardless of the part you represent in the body of Christ, whether big, small, visible, or unseen, you are just as vital as are the parts of your physical body. Whether at home, work, or church, do your part, and do it with all your heart. The rest of the body needs you.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 139:14) “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”
Life is like the South Texas weather; it can change quickly and the new day can be totally different than the previous one. Proverbs 27:1 says: “Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth.” While it is not a sin nor is it necessarily unwise to make plans for the future, this verse is a reminder that the day of tomorrow may never come. So if this verse is the “don’t do this” what is the “do this instead”? Jesus supplied that answer when He said: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) Simply put, we ask the Lord to help us today with today’s burdens. Clue: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
This reminds me of this corny joke I have probably bored you with before: A man was worried about 500 dollars he was going to have to come up with in 30 days. When he expressed his fear to a close friend, he replied, “don’t worry at all about that, you’re going to be fine.” That gave him comfort and he forgot about it. Two weeks later, those 500 dollars came to his mind again so he went back to his friend expressing his fear because the due date was now two weeks away. His friend gave him the same advice and it settled his fears. He did that the following week and his friend again quieted his fears. Then came the day the money was due so he came back to his friend expressing more fear then ever. This time his friend said: “Okay, now is the time to start worrying!”
Today is the best time to take care of today’s business. If we can do it today, why wait until tomorrow? Putting off important matters for a later date is, at best foolish because tomorrow could be too late. I shared these two verses with out prayer group at church yesterday: “Make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) and “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.” (Eph. 6:13) Referring to people who were unprepared and playing with fire, my mom would often use this expression: “Ven que la tempestad se acerca pero no se arrodillan.” Translation: “They see the storm approaching, yet they don’t kneel.” (pray) The best way to be prepared at all times is to stay close to God, so close that we are always aware that He is just a prayer away.
Gods word for today: (Psalm 73:28) “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all Your works.”
I Know there are many Christian folks, because they fear it dishonors God or is a sign of weakness or a lack of faith, don’t want to admit it or talk about it, but there are times when their trials get the best of them. Yes, at one time or another, we all will go through experiences that will really test our faith. Because this is true, one or two of you, maybe more, are going through a stretch right now that has made your soul feel weary and troubled. If things look very dark for you right now, permit me to remind you that the light to guide you out of the darkness is within you. As children of God, every one of us has Jesus in our heart, and He is THE light of the world. John said of Him: “In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.” (John 1:4)
If He conquered sin and death, He certainly has the power to lift us out of our worry, fear, or depression. If He emerged victorious over our mightiest enemies, so will we. And if sin no longer has dominion over us, neither should our trials. If an evil voice has whispered “You won’t get out of this one”, a stronger voice within you will remind you that you are more than a conqueror through Him who loves you. God’s promises will not fail you; believe Him and all will be well. Once you are back at the top of your game, and once He has lifted you up again, that will be the perfect time to tell others: “What He has done for me, He will do for you.”
The key to victory over any difficult trial is this: Turn your eyes upon Jesus, not on your situation. By faith, reckon Him looking down and smiling at you. When you focus on Him and keep your eyes upon Him, everything else will fade out of sight in the light of His glory and grace.
God’s promise for today: (Psalm 34:4) “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Note: If you didn’t sense it before, I had help writing today’s blog. It is another reminder of the timeless value of the written word. My helper was a person who is in glory today. Her name is Helen H. Lemmel. I used the lyrics of the great Christian hymn she wrote in 1922, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” I used the message of the hymn and ran with it. I pray you will find the song on the internet at your earliest opportunity.
Peter and Thomas were exceptional men; they had to have been if Jesus chose them to be His disciples. Unfortunately, to many people, Christians included, Thomas is only remembered as the Disciple who doubted Jesus’ resurrection and Peter as the one who denied Him. When anyone today doubts anything or anybody, many are quick to immediately call him or her a “doubting Thomas.”Peter doesn’t fare any better. In fact, it is worse with him. Besides being known as the Disciple who denied Jesus, he is also known as the one who almost drowned when he tried to walk on water and failed. Among Christian preachers and teachers, Peter is also known as the Disciple who constantly put his foot in his mouth. Among several others, one occasion they often cite is the time the Lord announced to His Disciples that He was going to die on the cross to later rise on the third day. Paraphrasing, Peter spoke out saying: “You’ll do no such thing!” Jesus turned to him and said: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23) Ouch!
I’m no psychologist but my guess is that most of us are like that: We tend to remember people’s mistakes and weaknesses more than the good things in their lives. If that is indeed the case, then it is just as easy for others to think the same way about us. In fact, I would not be surprised if some of you, as soon as you read these lines, immediately thought of someone you know who, for whatever reason, only sees you in a negative light. Perhaps you did or said something once that was wrong or did not come out right, and they never forgot it. If it is not fair for others to do that it is not right for us to do it either. That is one reason Paul wrote: "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." (Philippians 2:3)
Nevertheless, what held true for Peter and Thomas holds true for you. Those who really know you, and especially Jesus, love, appreciate, and value you highly. Because God is the only One who knows and understands us, all His children are precious in His sight. He knows the immense value that is in us because Jesus Himself lives in our heart. Let others think of us what they may. What matters the most is what He thinks of us.
God’s word for today: (Isaiah 43:4) “Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life.”
One day, a long, long time ago, a young lad left home to go hear a great prophet who had appeared on the scene. He was going to teach the people that day on a Judean mountainside and since they had never before seen or heard anybody like Him, people everywhere were talking about Him. It is reasonable to assume that the boy’s mom had to stay home to attend to the rest of her family and chores, but persuaded her young son to go hear what the prophet had to say. She may have asked him to carefully try to remember His words so that he could share them with her when he returned. She probably also fixed him his the lunch to sustain him that day. When Jesus later in the day asked His disciples if they had any food to feed the multitude, one of them replied: “There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” (John 6:9) Neither the boy nor his mom could have ever imagined that this great Teacher would use thatsmall meal to somehow feed a multitude. In fact, as the disciple implied, how could something so small do so much for so many?
Because we are human, we too often find it hard to believe that God can do good, or even great, things with the little we have to offer. Nevertheless, we must not forget that the One who did that great miracle on the mountainside that day, is the same today. After all, He lives forever.The truth is that wondrous things such as these are done on a daily basis throughout the world. Jesus continues to take the little we can offer to accomplish great things. Dear child of God, let me remind you that you have much more than five loaves and two fishes to offer. Like the lad in this biblical account, are you willing to offer what you have to bless and benefit others? A warm handshake, a loving smile, a pat on the back, a word of encouragement, all of these are small things and fairly easy to do. Yet, they can do great things for others. In fact, someone you know may just now be yearning to receive one of these “small things.” Bless someone today!
God’s promise for today (Proverbs 22:9) “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.”
By now, all of you are aware of the fiasco committed recently by United Airlines when they forcibly removed an unwilling customer off one of their flights. Their CEO quickly apologized to the passenger and to the entire nation vowing that such incidents would never again occur under his watch. Besides the apology, the airline was exceptionally quick to reach a monetary settlement with the offended customer and although an amount was not mentioned, one can only assume it was in the millions. United Airlines was wrong, quickly took responsibility, and made amends. Case closed, right? Wrong! Politicians had to put their two cents in. Even though United’s CEO had already apologized and made restitution, he had to submit to further grilling, scolding, and embarrassment before a seemingly indignant group of lawmakers. I am fully aware that this man makes millions of dollars in salary so to say “poor guy” might not be appropriate here. Nevertheless, and even though I suspect not everyone will agree, to me this was like kicking someone who is down already.
As I caught some of the coverage of this hearing, I was reminded of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. He suffered much greater indignities than the United Airlines passenger. Even worse, most of them came by way of his own brothers. They first considered killing him but later decided to sell him as a slave. Then they proceeded to lie to their father making it appear that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal. Once in Egypt as a slave, Joseph was falsely accused of sexual assault by the wife of his master and was cast into prison. We all know that in time, by God’s predestined plan, Joseph wound up as second in command to Pharaoh. When he finally revealed himself to his brothers it was obvious that they were terrified fearing retribution. This was the right time for the hammer to come down hard on them. This was the time when their confession and plea for mercy and forgiveness was in order. Did Joseph wait for it? And if he forgave them, would this not be the perfect time to let them have it anyway? No, what a man Joseph was! He basically forgave them even before they asked for it. He let them off the hook by telling them: “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.” (Gen. 45:5)
Unlike the panel in the recent congressional hearing, Joseph did not continue to berate his brothers once their sin exposed them. In His Sermon on the mount Jesus made it clear that God will not forgive those who do not forgive others. Nevertheless, when is forgiveness really forgiveness? It isn’t forgiveness when we throw it back at someone’s face after they have confessed and asked for it. And if we keep reminding folks of the time they offended us, neither is that forgiveness. When God’s children forgive, they really do.
God’s word for today: (Ephesians 4:32) “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
The old expression “when the rubber meets the road” generally speaks about the time when we have to put into action or practice what we have been claiming beforehand. It is also a time to show what we’re really made of. This old saying came to my mind last week when the topic of the Lord’s “anointing” was highlighted in our men’s bible class at church. The word “anointed” is a big favorite of many preachers and churches today. It is just as popular and widely used by preachers as the word “awesome” is to today’s general population. To many folks, anything that is good or that they like is “awesome.” It is the same in the Christian world. Any preacher or ministry that is well liked or received, of course, has to be “anointed.” Here, however, is where “the rubber meets the road”: The day will come when the “anointed” will find out if they really are.
In my early days in the ministry, we had a church member whom I was convinced was “anointed.” She attended every service, was the first one to arrive, gave the loudest and the most frequent “amens” and praises to God, and was the most expressive in her worship. I often wished I were as spiritual as she. Well, as fate would have it, one day she needed to go to the hospital for a fairly routine operation. As I have done for many years, I went to pray with her before the surgery and was shocked at what I saw. The person I thought was “anointed” and super spiritual was an emotional mess. Her operation was fairly simple yet she carried on like her life was in the balance. I tried hard to comfort, encourage her, and summon up her faith but had very little success. Even though she went in very distraught, the Lord was with her anyway and the operation was a breeze. Though that experience perplexed me at first, I learned a valuable lesson that day. The Lord reminded me of His words in Matthew 7:20: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Just because some high profile preachers have convinced many that they are “anointed” does not mean they actually are. When I asked someone once why they thought a certain preacher was “anointed”, he replied “because he said he was.” A millionaire doesn’t have to go around telling everyone that he is rich. With time, it will become obvious to those around him.
In my early days in the ministry, I was doing what many people do today. I was measuring Christians by their “gifts” not their fruits. I have since learned that the only ones that can rightfully be considered “anointed” are those who are like Christ. These are they who, besides being faithful, are humble and treat everybody with love, kindness, and respect. These are they who really make a positive impact in the lives of others. In fact, if you tell these folks they are “anointed” they may have a hard time believing it themselves or else it will matter very little to them. Thank God there are still many “anointed” people everywhere. You may be one of them.
God’s word for today: (2 Corinthians 1:21) “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us.”
One thing I love to do on Sunday mornings at church, along with our designated staff members, is to personally greet those coming in to one of our worship services. I suspect that if, by God’s grace, our membership eventually multiplies in size, I may have a slightly more difficult time doing it, but I’ll try anyway. I was thinking about this topic two Sundays ago when our greeters welcomed the few that came in after the service had already started. One gentleman was the type many churches will not let in. Our greeters, however, welcomed him the same way they welcomed all the others. I was very happy to see that and I thanked God we have such people in our church staff.
Addressing this issue, James wrote: “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.” (James 2:1) The Amplified Bible (AMP) says it this way: “My fellow believers, do not practice your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of partiality.” [toward people—show no favoritism, no prejudice, no snobbery] To be objective, we cannot forget that James offered this word of instruction to a people living in a different time and culture. To be more precise His letter was originally addressed “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.” (James 1:1) In other words, these were all new Jewish converts to Christ which were scattered to different parts of the world due to persecution. The Biblical principal set forth, nevertheless, remains the same: If God has no favorites, neither should we.
When you read the first eleven verses in Chapter two, you will see that James was more specific concerning this issue. He chided them for treating those who were dressed in fine apparel, probably the rich, with honor and respect, while those who appeared to be poor were seated in the spots of least importance. By personal experience, I know that human nature plays into this. My wife and I often have to go to HEB after Sunday morning services. When I am still in my church clothes, time and time again people seem to go out of their way to greet me and treat me with respect while on days when I’m wearing my ordinary clothes, hardly anybody says “hi” or even makes eye contact. However, the Christ in us, should be easily dominant over our old nature. When the love of God resides in our heart, it is easy to treat everybody as Christ would, regardless of who they are or what they look like. Now if someone comes to church smelling like the local landfill that might be an exception. Even so, should that ever occur, we still have an obligation to treat him or her as we think the Lord Himself would treat them. If you belong to a church where certain types are not permitted entry, it seems to me you just may be in the wrong church.
God’s word for today: (Mark 12:33) “To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
I discussed it with my better half and had been considering retiring this year from writing these weekday meditational thoughts. We’ve also prayed about it asking God to give us an indication of what to do. Well, I’m not sure yet if this was my sign or not but about ten days ago I was fixing my morning coffee and was debating if I should discard my almost spent bottle of coffee creamer since I had already bought a new one. Right before I threw it away I thought to myself “Why am I being wasteful? There’s not much left in this old plastic bottle but it still has something to give.” Needless to say, I kept it and used it until the end. I immediately wondered if the Lord was showing me that I was that old plastic bottle of creamer; I too may not have much left but I still have something to give. I believe the Lord, therefore, will continue to use me until I no longer can.
Another odd thing has happened since I started debating whether or not to continue writing this blog. I now have about ten days of devotions written and ready to go. If you are familiar with my past history, you know that I usually miss one or two days in most weeks. Now more than before, perhaps I sense my time is running out and I want to do all that I can. The truth is that the Lord has done some mighty great things with people older than me, and because writing a blog is not such a big deal, maybe He’ll use me one more year, or two, or three. After all, nothing is impossible with God. On the other hand, at my age it is also highly possible this blog may end abruptly. Even so, lately this verse has become one of my favorite bible promises: “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Isaiah 46:4) Every child of God who has reached the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” stage, should find a lot of comfort in this promise. He will rescue us!
And to you younger folks, this reminder: If the Lord can use old-timers, he can use people from all age levels. If you are a child of God, Romans 8:28 is a reminder that we have all been called “according to His purpose.” That means that God has a special and specific plan for your life. Here is where many Christians hit a roadblock. They will say they don’t know what God’s plan for their life is. If that’s the case with you, then do for others whatever comes to your mind, or those things that come easy for you or you love to do. Regardless of the service you choose, if you do it with all your heart as if you’re doing it for the Lord, that’s what matters the most anyway.
God’s word for today (Colossians 3:23) “Whatever work you do, do it with all your heart. Do it as for the Lord and not for men.”