I’m sure many of you have heard this heartbreaking phrase concerning a loved one or a dear friend: “At this point all we can do is keep him (her) comfortable.” To many, these are dreaded words. To them, it means that all hope is gone and unfortunately to some it makes them believe that God let them down. Notwithstanding, comfort is an extremely undervalued commodity and it helps and blesses the recipient much more than most people realize.
The author of Psalms 94 wrote: “When my worry is great within me, Your comfort brings joy to my soul.” (Ps. 94:19 NLV) I bet more than a few of you can recall a time in your life when worry, anxiety, doubt or fear filled your heart. Then, all of a sudden a strange feeling of peace and assurance came over you. To put it simply, God was comforting you. After all, He is the God of all comfort. (See 2 Corinthians 1:3)
I had that exact experience and I will never forget it. One night several years ago, I was struggling with, fever, chills and extreme weakness and about to be transported to the hospital. I must have looked like such a pitiful sight that my wife drew near and just held me. She probably felt helpless and wished she could have done more but as sick as I felt, her embrace afforded me an indescribable comfort which, for a good moment, made me forget my misery.
It is such a valuable thing that God wants us to comfort others when the need arises. By His grace, we will be able to comfort others with the same comfort we have received from Him. (See 2 Cor. 1:4) Because you were there when someone needed some comfort, one day something or someone will comfort you. On that day you will be very happy and grateful for it. My wife and I have very recently been comforted by some of you. If you should happen to hear that phrase again, the one with which I started this blog, please remember that it is a good thing, not a bad one. And because it is, do you know of anyone who may need some comfort today?
God’s promise for today: (John 14:18) “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
For many years now I have been corresponding with prison inmates who are generally related to members of our church family. In their letters, almost all of them speak about changing their ways and especially drawing closer to God and serving Him like never before, once they are released. In the most recent letter, a young man known by several members of our church family expressed his desire to serve in any capacity in our church upon his release.
Let me add that this is not the first time this young man has been incarcerated and in the past has let a lot of people down, including his wife and family. When I notified some of them about the letter and news of his impending release none of them gave an unchristian response but their reaction seemed to indicate that they doubt he will straighten out or ever change his ways. I’m not surprised because that is a typical natural response. On the other hand, however, I can think today of several exceptions who almost everyone, me included, gave up on and, in time, proved everyone wrong. This is a testament of God’s grace, mercy, and power.
Concerning Abraham, recognized by many as the father of our faith, Romans 4:18 says this: “who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.” Although Abraham did not see the completion of the promise, it is obvious that he lived as well as died in hope. Why can’t we be like that? Why can’t we give those who have fallen flat on their face over and over again the benefit of the doubt? And if you say “It’s because these people can’t be trusted” I will remind you that it is not a matter of trusting people but trusting God. And because God is faithful and all powerful, let’s learn to see struggling souls in a different light. If, in fact, there is someone in your life who has failed you over and over again, put your hope and trust in God. And even if they fail you again, be like Abraham, that others may one day say that you were a faithful child of God who lived and died in hope.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 146:5) “Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.”
I suspect that some of you are like me in that the things we see and hear on a daily basis often remind us of a bible story or truth. If you are a devoted Spurs’ fan, by now you are probably aware that we just lost one of the best players ever. Without a doubt, his trade to another team has been difficult to swallow for many Spurs fans. In a press conference two days ago, Coach Pop ended it by saying: “We wish him well, but at this point it’s time to move on.” For whatever the reason, these words quickly reminded me of a biblical account I have taught and preached about on several occasions. I am referring to the day God removed Saul from being king over Israel.
That day was one of the worst for the prophet, Samuel, for he had a deep fondness for Saul. From the day he first saw that tall, handsome, young man who was also very humble at the time, he felt Saul definitely had to be the answer to Israel’s dreams. Time and time again, however, Saul would let him down and eventually break his heart. I Samuel 15 ends on this sorrowful note: “And Samuel went no more to see Saul until the day of his death. Nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul, and the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.” (verse 35)
At the start of the following chapter, we read: “The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” Yes, Samuel was broken hearted, and yes there was a time to mourn, but the day came when the Lord basically told him: “Get over it. Its time to move on.”
It may be that one of you, like Samuel, is overdoing it in your mourning because of something that recently happened in your life. The truth is that we all will experience heartbreaking events in our lives. Maybe today the Lord is telling you to let Him have your burden of sorrow, that He will give you the grace and the courage to continue on the path He has chosen for you. God sustained Samuel and in time the prophet saw how things dramatically improved under King David’s reign. God will do the same for you, just trust Him. Come on, it’s time to move on.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 34:18) “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
In speaking afterwards to a relative of a man whose service we attended recently, l was reminded of something which to appears to be a constant regarding many funerals. I am referring to the uncovering of the deceased’s shady past. Please keep this fact in mind: The majority of the funerals I conduct or attend are family or church related where much evidence is present that the deceased was a genuine, heaven bound, child of God. I suspect this is God's way of reminding us that even the best of people have a shady past.
Those who are not too familiar with the Bible are often surprised that even the greatest bible heroes had something in their past which was often the opposite of the end product. Among them are Moses, David, Peter, and the apostle Paul. One can only speculate why God allowed these shameful accounts to make their way into the Bible. Could it be because it shows that the only One who is perfect is God Himself or because He gets more glory when He reaches down to the lowest of the low and makes something special out of them? If these are not the main reasons, they are certainly worthy of consideration.
Though hurtful and embarrassing, most Christians will publicly own up to their less than stellar past. The apostle Paul wrote in his first letter to Timothy: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.” (1 Tim. 1:15) The odd thing is that he spoke in the present tense. (I am) True believers will never attempt to convey themselves as being superior to others. They know that if there is anything good in them it is because of God’s grace and mercy. Though we are now cleansed and sanctified, may we never forget this truth. In closing, don’t forget the change Christ effected in your life and don’t let your shady past haunt or condemn you. What matters most is what you are today, not what you used to be.
God’s word for today: (1 Corinthians 6:11 NLT) “Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
As soon as this fellow got to work one morning, one of his co-workers remarked “Boy, that is a very strange pair of shoes! One is brown and the other is black.” He replied. “I know! The strange thing is that I’ve got another pair at home just like it.” Excuse, the corny start but when I heard the joke it reminded of something we can all relate to. Not you, of course, but if we are honest, many of us will confess that before we came to Christ, we were seriously lacking intelligence, knowledge, and even common sense. If you are like me, you can now laugh and the silly antics we once pulled off and marvel that we are still alive today. In the case of the man in the corny joke, it is obvious he wasn’t very bright.
But there is a remedy for those who are lacking in this area’ David wrote: “O how I love your law! it is my meditation all the day. You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me.” (Ps. 119:97-98) Maybe I’m wrong because I’m no expert on the matter, but I sincerely believe that what makes a person smart or dumb lies in the amount of information his or her brain can process and retain. I realize things are very different today than they once were, but all through my 12 years in public school, I don’t recall ever doing any homework away from school. I suppose some of my classmates thought I was smart but God just blessed me with a good memory which enabled me to maintain very good grades.
It will do us all well to seek more of God’s Word for our lives and to ask Him for the ability to process and retain it. The more we know it, the more people around us will think we are wise or knowledgeable. If we seek the Lord in this way, before long we will have a PHD. (a Positively Higher Discernment)
God’s word for today: (Psalm 19:7) “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
Some time back, I asked a group of our church family members if they could add the name of another of our members to their prayer list. One who didn’t quite catch the name asked, “who?” When she heard the name clearly, she remarked rather sarcastically: “Oh, her.” I was stung but so surprised by the remark that I said nothing at all. Later, while driving home, I felt very angry at myself for not saying anything and if I could have pulled it off, I would have kicked myself. You see, one of the obligations of a good shepherd is to protect and defend any member of his flock who is unjustly attacked. Just like God, any genuine, divinely called pastor has no favorites. To the shepherd in an actual flock, the sheep, though they come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, are all the same. There is no one better or more important than any other. It is no different in the church.
In his letter to the church, James rebuked the practice of favoritism in it. The rich were catered to and the poor simple members were despised. He told them clearly that this type of behavior is sin when he wrote: “But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” (James 2:9)
Any church where partiality and discrimination is prevalent is a church who has lost favor with God. Though invisible to the naked eye, there are spiritual cracks in it’s walls or foundation. Left unchecked, that church is due for a fall. One way it’s members can prevent that fall is by applying the advice Paul gave in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 when he wrote: “And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” God is faithful and He will answer your prayers on behalf of your church if you have seen these troubling signs in it. Never forget, however, that He expects us to do our part nonetheless. Don’t let the word “warn” scare you. If you ask God to help you when you see someone belittling or denigrating another person, He will give you the right words to use to bring it to their attention. In the same manner, He will help you to be an encourager and a helper to those who need it and He will give you the patience to do it correctly. The way back to healing in your church might very well begin with you.
God’s word for today: (Proverbs 10:12) “Hatred stirs up strifes: but love covers all sins.”
In 2 Samuel, Chapter 21 we read the story of King David, now advanced in age, being rescued from an encounter with one of Goliath’s descendants. Just when the giant was about to kill David, his nephew, Abishai, arrived on the scene and slew the Philistine warrior. After this scary event, David’s men declared: “You are not going out to battle with us anymore. Why risk snuffing out the light of Israel?” (vs. 17)
Now, I am no king David, but if I was, many of you have reminded me, like David’s men, that I still have a little light left and can still write a few devotionals every now and then. You have inspired me to continue writing my blog informing me that it has been a source of blessing, comfort, and inspiration to you. I thank the Lord for you. That thought was confirmed to me earlier this morning when I noticed that my tube of toothpaste was nearing it’s end. I, like many of you, do not discard it until I can no longer get anything from it. I believe God does the same with us. He will use us till the very end.
So now, permit me to remind you that, if God can use senior citizens for His purpose, He can use you too. I trust you will go out today with the knowledge that God can use you to touch someone’s life today. Even small things like a word of encouragement, a heartfelt compliment, a friendly handshake, a warm embrace, or just a smile or nod of approval, God can use them and turn them into something great. Just yesterday, a member of our church family told us that a co-worker came up to her recently and said: “I don’t know what you’ve got, but I’d like to have it too.” She capitalized on the moment and led her to Christ. It is really quite simple. If you shine for Jesus, you’ll make a difference in this world.
God’s word for today: (Galatians 6:10) “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”