This is an amplified version of a devotional thought I wrote for yesterday’s church bulletin: My wife and I just spent an enjoyable overnight vacation with a few members of our family. For many years, and even now, we have had many family vacations, sometimes with more than twenty of us in the group. I suppose it is the same with all who take group vacations, but it seems that there is always something unusual or noteworthy happening in these vacations which makes for good conversation many years later. You know the bit. It goes something like “Do you remember this and that when we went to…..?"
Well, despite being a one-day vacation, this most recent one also featured a couple of memory making events. First, I left one of my shoes on the beach and did not notice it until we were well on our way back home. Maybe I’ll write a song and title it “I left my shoe in Corpus Christi.” I bet, some of you are thinking “How in the world does someone lose a shoe on vacation?” All I know is that, for me, it wasn’t all that hard. What did prove to be impossible, however, was to convince Sears to sell me only one shoe the following day.
On a more serious matter, we almost got hit by a wrong way driver on Interstate 37 as we were coming home Friday night. Since, like many of you, I don’t believe in coincidences, I’m convinced these things happened for a reason. To me, it was a reminder and a picture of our lives here on earth, where just about anything can happen at any time. In fact some of you may be going through an experience today that seems to have just popped out of nowhere which is highly unusual and difficult to understand. These things will happen in everyone’s life sooner or later, but for God’s children there is always hope and always an answer. For these unexpected events, the Bible says: "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand."(Ephesians 6:13) Keep this reminder in mind: There is a purpose and a reason you are in the situation you’re in. Because you are human, you may not understand it now, but one thing is for sure: God is in it, and everything will turn out well.
God’s promise for today: (1 Corinthians 10 13, MSG Version) “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; He will never let you be pushed past your limit; He will always be there to help you come through it.”
Although he didn’t do it with the best of intentions, a religious lawyer once asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment in the law. Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 7:37-40) This simply means that anyone who can fulfill these two commandments, will automatically keep the other eight. But let me be clear: We are not talking here about merely believing it in our head; we are talking about actually loving God with all our being. In fact, I believe that anyone who loves the Lord in this manner, will also love his neighbor.
When we think about it, everything in life would be many times better if everyone did things with all their heart, even in the small, simple things many deem insignificant. For example, if you cook a meal for people you love, I choose to believe it will be more delicious and satisfying if you do it with all your heart. If your spouse, or your children, or your parents do something for you, it will mean so much more to you if you know that they did it with a heart filled with love. Even in church, the prayers, the singing, yes even the preaching will touch people more deeply when those who did it, did it with all their heart.
What about you? How often do you do things for God or for others with “all your heart?” How many things in a day can we find that we don’t have to put all our heart into it? That’s a tough question, right? Many years ago, a young lady who was helping us fold the church bulletin for that Sunday, noticed the way the other volunteers were doing it. She turned to me and asked: “These bulletins don’t have to be perfectly folded, right?” I answered: “Well, it depends on who your doing it for. Are you doing it for me or for God?” She quickly replied: “I see what you mean.” Assuming you are a genuine child of God, I believe you will ask the Lord to help you do more things with all your heart from now on, that is, if you aren’t already.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 119:2) “Blessed are they that keep His testimonies and that seek Him with the whole heart.”
I want to share with you today a shorter version of the study I have prepared for the Men’s Bible Class in church tonight. The topic is “respect.” If someone were to ask you “who or what is worthy of our respect?”, after some consideration you would conclude “anything or anyone who has power and authority.” Just in weather alone, water, heat, and cold are three things many have come to respect by personal experience. Some who didn’t respect these powerful weather elements paid a heavy, sometimes fatal, price.
Respect must be shown at work, play, and in church, although it really begins at home. Because we are human, it is easy for us to get careless and not give people or things the respect they deserve. We mistakenly tend to think that it does not apply to our spouse, family, or children, but it does. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote this: “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (1 Tim. 5:1-2) These two verses speak of respect. Whether a man or a woman, no adult appreciates being treated like a child. That is not only disrespectful, it is demeaning. And how often have we seen older parents being scolded in public by their own children? In Moses’ time, God set forth this command: “Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:32)
What are the consequences when we don’t show others the respect they deserve? Here’s one: In his letter to Timothy, Paul also added: “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8) Primarily, the verse refers to financial support, but “respect” is also something that needs to be provided to our family and loved ones. God says that those who fail to provide are “worse” than unbelievers. Here’s something else that can happen: Apart from God’s grace, people who have been offended by being disrespected in one way or another, are often impossible to win back. Even in those relationships that are restored, things may never be the same again. For the love of God, and for your own benefit as well, make every effort you can to not disrespect anyone, especially those in your own family.
God’s word for today: (Romans 13:7) “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
During last week’s Vacation Bible School at church, I was reminded of the vital importance of the eternal truth in Proverbs 22:6 which reads: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” By God’s grace, I have been pastor at the same church for over forty years and I have seen that truth played out in the lives of our members. In our case, many of the adults which participated this year as teachers and helpers were at one time children in VBS themselves. I too remember being in VBS as a child and although I strayed far from the things of God in my early adult life, I choose to believe that what I learned in VBS played a big part in my coming back.
I read a report recently where a Princeton Scholar by the name of Benjamin Warfield, made a study of five generations which followed the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards, and a well known atheist of his day, Max Jukes. His results should not be surprising. Among Edwards’ descendants there were 13 college presidents, 65 professors, 30 judges, 100 lawyers, 60 physicians, and 100 pastors. Among Jukes’ descendants there were 310 paupers, (homeless people) 150 criminals, seven murderers, and more than a hundred alcoholics. The truth of Proverbs 22:6 has also been proven time and time again in the lives of many biblical figures. Reading in the biblical books of the Kings and also the Chronicles, the evidence is quite clear, especially with the kings of Israel. One after another, these were all bad kings. Should it surprise us that none of these were descendants of David?
We should make every effort, therefore, to put the advice of Proverbs 22:6 into practice in the lives of all the children in our family and any others in whose lives we play a part. Not only will that be good for them, it will be good for all those who are connected to them. It will expand and make a big difference in our communities, city, state, nation, yes, even in the world. If what we have in Christ is invaluable, it is worthy of being shared with our family and friends, beginning with the children. It is beyond invaluable, it is life saving. In every generation, the children are our future. And that was true even before someone thought of including the thought in a popular hit song of some years back.
God’s word for today: (Proverbs 14:26) “Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.”
All pastors have this question posed to them from time to time: “What the best thing I can do in order to please God?” I was thinking about my general answer when asked this question as I read Psalm 4 earlier today. David ends this short psalm with these words: “ In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (vs. 8) I instantly recognized it as proof of David’s complete trust in God, the type of faith that enables you to get a sound, restful sleep each night regardless of your circumstances. This is the answer to the question. God is always pleased when His children trust Him wholeheartedly.
In this same psalm, I saw one reason of David’s trust in God in the last part of verse 3. He wrote: “The Lord hears when I call to Him.” I also saw a secondary benefit that comes to all who Trust God in verse 7 when he wrote: “Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.” When others who didn’t have his type of faith were asking him where their help would come from, David probably urged them to trust the Lord. And when the Lord supplied their needs, David’s heart was filled with joy because of it. Doesn’t your heart rejoice when you see your prayers for others answered?
I also saw earlier today another feature of David’s faith and trust in God in Psalm 57, King James version. Verse 7 reads: “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” To me, this was another way of David saying: “My mind is made up. I am going to believe in and trust God no matter what.” I pray we will all get to this place in our faith and trust in God, the place where we have made up our mind to trust Him like never before. There are not many things we can do that will please God more than this. Have you been pleasing Him in this manner. If not, why not start today?
God’s word for today (Hebrews 11:6) “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares (The NIV calls it the Parable of the Weeds) in the 13th Chapter of Matthew, is a picture of something that is quite common in many of today’s churches, other than yours, of course. I am referring to the “weeds” that are growing together with the wheat. Whether the “weeds” represent saved or unsaved members of the church, the workers of the field (pastors) cannot and should not remove them. In the parable, the workers asked the Owner if they should pull them out. He replied: “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.” (Mt. 13:29)
Here’s how that situation relates to the pastor and his “weeds.” Most pastors would not hesitate to remove them…….if they could. In fact, because the weeds are oftentimes easily recognizable, many pastors are often criticized when they don’t do a thing about them. Here’s the problem: In many cases, these weeds are directly connected to the good wheat, close friends or family members, to be exact. They are like inoperable cancers. Trying to remove such cancers will result in destroying or doing great harm to the vital organs or tissues connected to them. In the church’s case, if you remove these “weeds”, many good members may go with them. That is like a surgeon cutting off a hand when only one finger is infected.
I pray yours is not one of them but many churches have “weeds”, and when they are connected to the good wheat, only the Lord can remove them if and when He wants to. If we trust God, as we should, He will take care of this problem if and whenever He sees fit. Meanwhile, He will give us the grace to endure as we wait upon Him and He will also use the situation to teach us, give us patience, and strengthen us in our faith in the process. This is just one more instance where we have to rely on the promise of Romans 8:28. Be sure about this: The Lord knows exactly what is going on and He hears us prayers. Our part is to trust and wait upon Him.
God’s word for today: (Matthew 13:30) Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
I was thinking about two women yesterday. Relax, I am referring to two notable women in the Bible. The first one was the Gentile woman who came to Jesus seeking His help for her daughter that was vexed by an evil spirit. Her story is found in 15th Chapter of Matthew. The second was a woman who approached Jesus seeking relief for a very serious blood disorder. That story is found in the 9th Chapter of Matthew. To me, there was a glaring similarity in their attitudes, one which I believe made it possible for them to have their prayers answered. It was a humble, believing heart.
The woman whose daughter was being tormented by an evil spirit, besides hearing His disciples urging Him to send her away, heard Jesus say: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (vs. 24) She was not one of them. If that weren’t enough, when she kept pressing Him, he replied: “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (vs. 26) I bet some women we know, to this comment would have replied in a huff: “What did you just call me?” and then walk away in a rage. Not her, she answered: “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Ironically, hers was a dogged determination. She was not going to give up that easily, another vital ingredient in getting our prayers answered.
The woman whom Jesus healed from her blood disorder had to fight her way to even get past the multitude of people flocking after Him. Once she got close enough, she reached out to touch the hem of His cloak believing that would be enough to get healed. She was right. One thing many people fail to consider is that, in order to take hold of His robe, she had to have been very close to the ground, perhaps even in a prone position. There are some who revere the Lord so much that when they pray, they fall prostrate before Him. This is an act of humility and reverence.
I repeat, to me, these women got their prayers answered because of their attitude. They never demanded anything relying mainly on His love, mercy, and compassion. May we keep this in mind whenever we draw near to God with our special petitions. I have heard some false teachers declare that we, as the children of the King, have every right to demand answers to our wishes and concerns. Wrong! God’s children give their Heavenly Father all the honor, reverence, praise, and glory He deserves always.
God’s word for today: (James 4:10) “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.”
I was sharing this thought with our prayer group in church Tuesday: This past Monday I wrote about how, as God’s children, we need one another, about how important it is for us to always make an effort to encourage one another. I also mentioned those we hear from time to time declare that the only One they need in order to stay encouraged is the Lord. Unfortunately, believers such as these, although they are lacking in common sense and Christian charity, are correct. Nevertheless, this eternal truth does not diminish the importance of our need of one another. Neither does it change God’s will in this matter. From the beginning of time, He said that it was not good for man to be alone. (see Genesis 2:18) The Lord wants us to encourage one another as often as we can. In fact, when we share His word with others, we are in a position not only to encourage them, but perhaps comfort and strengthen them as well. Paul wrote this in his letter to the Romans: “When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” (Romans 1:12 New Living Translation)
That being said, the day will come when, for whatever reason, we will find ourselves all alone. In the psalms, David spoke of this situation often. He wrote in Psalms 27:10: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” This is a reminder that sometimes even those who are the closest and dearest to us will not be around. It is at times like these when we will need an extra dose of God’s grace upon our lives. This will be the time when we will have to trust and cling to Him like never before. Without His grace at such times, our faith could be shattered. Many people have succumbed to situations such as these and have never come back to the relationship they once enjoyed with the Lord. Perhaps you may know of one or two.
If you are presently in a situation where it seems that the whole world is against you, let me remind you that you are not completely alone, even though it may appear that way. David, and many other believers after him, experienced situations like these on many occasions, yet the Lord always sustained and restored him. He will do the same for you, just trust Him. One more thing, however, and even though it is true: when the Lord comes through for you please don’t tell others that the only one you’ll ever need in order to stay encouraged is the Lord. This will never encourage anybody.
God’s promise for today: (Isaiah 41:13) “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, Saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.”
If you’ve ever read the heartbreaking account of Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter, in the 34th Chapter of Genesis, you will easily conclude that all the trouble that came upon her and her family could have been avoided had she not decided one day to go out to see how the rest of the world lived. Likewise, if you know the story of the prodigal son in the 15th Chapter of Luke, you will see that he too may have saved himself a lot of misery and grief had he not decided to leave the safety of his father’s home one day to go out and explore the world.
You may say that you understand the lessons in both stories but will protest that you have to go out into the world every day in order to make a living for you and your family. Yours is a valid point. In fact, when praying to the Father for His Disciples, Jesus said: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) Obviously, it is virtually impossible for most of us not to go out into the world or be touched by it in one way or another. Nevertheless, we must also keep in mind that, although we are in the world, we are not of the world.
One eternal truth it will serve us well not to forget is this one: “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.”(1 Corinthians 15:33) The lesson here is clear. Whether “out in the world” or among those who call themselves God’s people, those we continually hang around with can either encourage and strengthen our faith, or else bring us down spiritually. Here too, it is almost impossible to avoid contact with those who have a negative impact on our lives because very often they are members of our own family. In this case, it will be helpful to pray for God’s grace and strength while we are around them. Even so, we should make it a point to try to have as much fellowship as we can with those who will help us stay inspired and motivated for God. In fact, I just thanked a special person a few days ago whose kind words of support continuously help me stay inspired and motivated to continue writing this blog. Lets be honest here: We all need to be encouraged every once in a while. I suppose there may be some who only need the Lord in order to stay encouraged but whether you are in that elite group or not, I pray you’ll remember to encourage those around you who are not as spiritually strong as you. To confirm the belief of many that we, as God’s children, need each other, Proverbs 27:17 says this: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”Finding such folks in our lives to hang around with is a sharp thing to do.
God’s word for today: (Hebrews 10:25 Common English Bible (CEB) “Don’t stop meeting together with other believers, which some people have gotten into the habit of doing. Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the Day drawing near.”
Right before I stepped up to the pulpit this past Sunday, one of our members handed me a small piece of paper with a poem on it. I chose to read it at the end of my sermon because, unsurprisingly, it fit very well with my theme. But that poem also reminded me that I have not written one in quite a while, so Monday when I shared the great memory of the school day scenes of long ago with my mom, I asked God to help me write a poem about it. As all the others I have written, it is simple and not too long. I hope it is a blessing to you, especially those of you whose mom is waiting for you in Heaven.
It was a scene from long ago/ quite frankly ordinary /
It never crossed my mind back then/ How long that thought I’d carry /
As I’d come home from school each day / I’d look in every room /
And once I’d catch a glimpse of her / I’d say “Hey mom, I’m home.” /
And then the years went slowly by/ that scene would soon be fading /
I’d never be a boy again / I’d have no mother waiting /
But then one great and glorious day / Christ came into my life /
No longer would I be tormented / by misery and strife /
Among the many wondrous things / I now would have in Christ /
The wish I had from long ago / would now be back in sight /
That hope is real without a doubt / goes way beyond the tomb
In glory, when I see her there / I’ll say “Hey mom, I’m home!” /
In my message yesterday, I touched lightly on a memory that has been with me for as long as sixty years. Because I am a now a senior citizen, I’m sure I have brought out this subject from the pulpit more than a few times. After all, that is what old timers do, isn’t it? Anyway, I was recalling my normal routine when I would get home from school. I’d walk in, look for mom and then say: “Hey mom, I’m home.” The first thing she would always do was ask me if I wanted to eat anything. To that too, I can also say: “Isn’t that what mothers do?” Back then, I did not think much about that particular routine, neither did it dawn on me that one day, I would grow up, leave home, and those greetings would one day just be a memory, which is what it is today. Another thought I never entertained back then was that one day I would miss those after school greetings so much.
Then, in my adult life I experienced the greatest thing that ever happened to me. Christ came into my life. Now, because of Him, the yearning of again being able to say “Hey mom, I’m home” is now a reality. When King David’s son, the one that was born out of his affair with Bathsheba, died, David said with a grieving heart: “But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23) The circumstances around the death and departure of our loved ones, though different, was perhaps as painful as David’s experience. Nevertheless, because of Christ, we can all say like David: “I will go to him.” (her)
My reunion with my mom, along with my dad and the rest of my family, won’t be in the old house we lived in so many years ago but in our new celestial home. She got there way before the rest of my siblings and me. Nevertheless, as sure as I am here behind my PC writing about it today, she is there waiting for the rest of us to go join her. I don’t know if it will be this year, or next, or five, or ten, or more years from today. One thing I do know for sure is that I’ll be able to say once again, and for the last time: “Hey, mom, I’m home!” Dear child of God, I pray you will be blessed by that happy thought today for you too will be able to, not only see and say “hi” to your mom, or dad, or sibling, or child once again, you’ll be able to stay there with them forever.
God’s word for today: (Revelation 7:9) “After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.”