Have you ever heard the expressions, “IF is a very big word” or “IF changes everything”? Many will go on to try to explain the phrase by adding something corny like: “IF frogs had wings, they wouldn’t bump their behind on the ground so much.” The general idea is that a little word can make a big difference, even change everything. Reading Psalms 4 earlier today, David added a little word to the last verse (8) that, at least in my estimation, clarified the verse dramatically. The word I am referring to is the word “both.” It reads: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.” (KJV) Many of the newer bible translations leave out the word “both.”
Here’s why I think that word (both) is important: To me, David was simply saying “Not only will I sleep good, I will sleep in peace.” As I read that verse earlier today, I immediately remembered an old close friend whom I tried several times to win for Christ. He would constantly say something like: “Don’t worry about me, I sleep well at night.” To be honest, back then I couldn’t figure out how a person without Jesus in his heart could sleep well at night. That question was answered not too long after when I started on a new work schedule. Because of it, for twenty years after that, my daily routine featured long hours at work and an average of four hours of sleep daily. I know that it is important, but it is hard for me not to think sometimes that perhaps sleep may be overrated because I was able to function for twenty years despite the lack of it.
Oh, here’s what I learned: being able to sleep soundly at night doesn’t mean all that much. There are many who are able to fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow. Sleeping soundly and sleeping in peace can be two different things. Many who sleep well, will get up irritable, groggy, and sometimes even scared in the morning because they had a terrifying dream. This very seldom happens to God’s true children. Regardless of the hours of sleep they receive, they are at peace during the day because they slept in peace during the night. The word “both” in today’s verse made a big difference, but Christ in our hearts makes a bigger difference still. Trust Him with all your heart and you may even see the difference in the quality of your sleep.
Gods word for today: (Psalm 149:5) “Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.”
Conversing with a fellow minister recently he unconsciously conveyed his belief that some of his church members believe that he is not very bright. His suspicions are not unfounded because we all know some church folks who publicly declare that they are smarter or know more than their pastor. I can’t ask for a show of hands but what about you? Whether you’ve let it be known or not, do you think you are more intelligent or wiser than your pastor? If you answered “yes”, that does not necessarily make you a bad person. In your case, you could just be conveying a fact or what you believe to be true. For example, you may be a college graduate with a masters degree and your pastor is not.
Here’s the obvious bottom line: Many members are more intelligent than their pastor. Even so, that issue may not be as important or crucial as many may think. You see, God does not always call His servants into the pastoral ministry because they are geniuses. He calls them for a definite place, purpose, time or group of people. God is much more interested in their “heart” that in their “mind.” This does not mean, however, that all ministers are birdbrains. Many of them are highly intelligent although that is not a chief requirement. Lets be honest: we all know folks who have brilliant minds but have no common sense whatsoever. I know some men who have the mind of a genius but could not name you one part under a car’s hood.
Whether God’s true ministers are intellectuals or not, this one fact remains: knowledge and use of God’s Word as well as their many years of walking with Him, makes them much smarter and wiser than most. Who can know more than God? Therefore, all knowledge begins with Him. That’s what the writer of Psalms 111 had in mind when he wrote: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (verse 10) Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.
If your pastor is not a college graduate with a PhD but is a genuine servant of God, relax. You’re in good hands because he is in good hands, and more important than his mind, his heart belongs to Jesus.
God’s word for today: (Psalm 119:88) “Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies.”
Even before yesterday’s passing of the acclaimed “queen of soul”, Aretha Franklin, I was already thinking of her greatest and best known hit, “RESPECT.” In fact, every time I think of that word or topic, I think of her and her legendary song. You see, just recently, whether intentional or by accident, one individual disrespected me “big time.” By God’s grace, I was able stay quiet, keep my composure, and hide my real feelings. I’m pretty sure those around us didn’t notice a thing. With some folks I know, this offender would not have been so lucky. Later that night, during my “quiet time” with the Lord, I also added these two new petitions to Him: (1) “Please remove this stinging feeling and (2) help me to completely forget it.” Today, I can honestly say that God has removed the sting although its pretty apparent I haven’t completely forgotten the offence. Nevertheless, by His grace, God’s children can have perfect peace even when they don’t completely forget the offence (s). I know I do.
Throughout my many years as pastor, time and time again I have had to counsel with people who were disrespected and had an extremely difficult time dealing with it. Besides praying with them, I ask them to lift up to God the same petitions I just mentioned. I know God is faithful to comfort, remove the hurt, and help them “forget it.” I also remind them of what the Lord reminded me of recently. It is this: Christ was disrespected and He was the Son of God. Jesus told His disciples: “Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons, the members of my household will be called by even worse names!” (Matthew 10:25 NLT)
I know all of you have been disrespected at one time or another and I don’t know how you have handled it in the past. Nevertheless, the advice I have given others applies to you as well. Next time it happens, it is imperative that you take action as quickly as you can, if not instantaneously. If you don’t, the devil will have a field day with it. He will tell you that you don’t deserve that kind of treatment, that if anyone deserves respect, it is you. If you listen to his lies, things will only get worse for you and everyone around you. More importantly, he will have been successful of robbing you of the joy and peace Christ wants you to enjoy. C’mon, snap out of it, and as far as the offence is concerned, forget it.
God’s word for today: (Proverbs 19:11 NLT) “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.”
In the closing of last night’s bible study in Church, I was asked about the difference regarding the two judgments I lightly touched upon. Since this topic was important and merited clarification last night in the heart of one of our class members, I assumed it is the same for many Christians as well. Today, therefore, I want to go into more detail concerning these two events, the Judgment seat of Christ and the Great White Throne Judgment. Lets begin with the latter.
In the 20th Chapter of Revelation, verses 11-15, these are the highlights: The setting is God’s great white throne. The people who will be assembled before him on that day are described as “the dead, great and small.” It goes on to speak of the “book of life” which will be opened before them and will be used to judge them for what they did in their lifetime. It ends with verse 15 which reads: “Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Let me add that the multitude described in this passage is comprised of all those who rejected and did not believe in Christ while they lived on earth.
The Judgment seat of Christ, on the other hand, is where all who believed and received Christ in their hearts and lives during their time on earth, will appear. Paul wrote : “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10) No doubt about it fellow believers, we will all stand before Christ one day in our future. The main differences here, are: (1) This will not change or have any effect on our eternal destiny. Our salvation is safe and secure because of what Christ did. It can never, nor will it ever, be revoked. (2) This judgment will only determine what degrees of rewards we will receive from Christ for the works we did while in this life.
The space I allot these blogs will not permit me to go into more detail but the clear message is this: Those who are in Christ have no reason to fear regarding their promise of eternal life, and those who are not should make a sincere effort to become Christians while they still can. As far back as 700 years before Christ came to earth, this was God’s message to the world by way of the prophet Isaiah: “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” (Isa. 55:6) I hope that through today’s blog you may comfort and encourage a fellow believer and/or point a new soul to Christ.
God’s word for today: (John 10:28) “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
I have never pretended to be overly spiritual but I can truthfully claim, like all true children of God, that the Holy Spirit lives within me. I tell you this because earlier this morning I felt like the Lord gave me this following simple message especially for two or more of you who will read this blog today. Do you remember the wacky old Disney tune that has these lyrics: “put them together and what have you got, bibbidi, bobbidi, boo”? Well, the Lord has a “put them together and what have you got” message for you today.
We begin with well known story of Joseph, the son of Jacob. Sold by his own brothers as a slave and taken to a strange new land (Egypt) where he seemed to be all alone in the world with one cruel blow after another. His story seemed to end with his imprisonment. Things looked hopeless for him, yet, you all know how his story ended. Then, there was the account in 2 Kings, Chapter 6 of the day when the prophet Elisha was surrounded by a huge army sent by the king of Aram to capture and probably execute him later. When his despairing attendant asked him “what shall we do?”, the prophet prayed “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” God answered that prayer and the fearful servant saw the hills full of the fiery horses and chariots of God. Elisha and his servant were left unharmed.
We move on to the time Jesus’ disciples were terror stricken while in a violent storm at sea. Jesus calmed the storm right before their eyes. They were safe and unharmed because He was in the boat with them. Jesus later, in order to teach His disciples to always pray and never give up, told them the story of a widow who doggedly pestered an unrighteous judge who was left with no choice but to answer her petition. (Luke 18) Finally, we come to the story of the time when it appeared God’s people would be slaughtered by the pursuing Egyptian army. Seemingly trapped at the edge of the Red Sea, many started railing against Moses but he replied: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.” (Exodus 14:13)
When we put all these together, this is the message the Lord has for you today: Things may look hopeless for some of you today but God wants you to open your eyes of faith. He wants to remind you that He is with you in the middle of your storm. And because He is, don’t give up! Now, just sit back and see the salvation of the Lord.
God’s word for today: (Psalms 27:1) “The Lordis my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lordis the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Because I believe that a few of you or more can relate to the topic I’m writing about today, I am sharing an amplified version of the devotional I wrote for our church bulletin last Sunday. Here it is: [Many years ago, one of my co-workers in the post office asked me to reserve for him all the leftover supply of sample cartons of cigarettes which could not be delivered. He added: “remember that I’m your friend.” I responded, “Because I am your friend, I can’t do that.” I added: “Can you imagine me standing by your bed when you’re dying of lung cancer knowing that I helped put you in that situation?”
All of us want the best for our friends and especially our family. Even so, if we are careless, there are times when we can do more harm than good when we do things they want. Parents face that situation often. Because they want to give their children what they ask for, they often wind up hurting instead of helping them. Even as I am re-writing last Sunday’s devotional, I suspect that some of you have crossed the line that separates right from wrong, wise from foolish. And please don’t think that I haven’t made those mistakes myself.
Proverbs 27:6 says: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Yes, there may be times when people we love will be angry or upset with us but whether parent or friend, those who are wise will ask God for the courage and the grace to say “no” whenever it is necessary. If you are facing that type of situation today, I pray you will do the same. ]
God’s word for today (Proverbs 20:7 NIRV) “Those who do what is right live without blame. Blessed are their children after them.”
If after reading the gist of today’s blog thinking “Hmm, that was pretty bizarre”, I won’t be surprised. However, I am who I am, and I feel one or more of you can relate to my way of thinking or at least understand it. I’ll try to explain. First, this question: Have you ever held someone or something so cute and adorable, perhaps a baby or a puppy, that your first impulse is to squeeze hard, even bite? Hoping I’m not the only weirdo, I pray more than one or two of you will say “Yes, I’ve felt those urges from time to time.” I’m not a psychologist, neither have I played one on TV or recently stayed at a Holiday Inn, but I believe some babies bite those who are carrying them as an expression of deep affection or joy for them. In other words, they can’t help it. Ever known any biting babies?
This leads me to share with you one of my real and constant worries. I pray it is because of the love of Christ which lives in my heart, but I fall in love very easily with people, especially those who are part of my family at home and even in church. Because I love them so much, my first reaction is to hug them tightly, whether male or female. I fear, however, that one day, one may misinterpret the hug and take it to mean something impure. In a day when accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior are common, people who have the same emotional “flaw” as me, need to be very careful when interacting with others. Even with those who are members of my immediate family, I need to avail myself of the grace and self control of the Holy Spirit in order to resist the temptation to squeeze them too hard or even bite them.
Perhaps I was led to this topic because I just read the account of the day when Jacob was finally reunited with his son Joseph. Genesis 46:29 reads: “So Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; and he presented himself to him, and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while.” (a long time) I also remembered the account of the day the prodigal son came back home. Luke 15:20 reads: “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (probably for a long time too) Because I have an unusual and imaginative mind, sometimes I wonder if Joseph or the prodigal son, or both, while in the tight long embrace of their fathers ever thought within themselves “Ok dad, that’s enough.” Perhaps we should keep that in mind next time we hug someone too tight or too long or even feel the urge to bite.
God’s word for today (Galatians 5:13) “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
I just heard this funny story again recently, one some of you may be familiar with. There are several variations of it but the points that it makes are the same. Here’s mine: After his sermon, a pastor announced that he would see anyone after the service who needed special prayer. A young man in attendance that morning took him up on his offer. The pastor asked what his petition was and the young man said he needed prayer for his hearing. Immediately, the pastor cupped his hands over the petitioner’s ears and prayed. “Oh God, I ask you to please heal this young man.” The pastor then asked “How’s your hearing now?” The young man replied, “I don’t know, it’s not till next Thursday.”
Here are two obvious points to this story: (1) When we pray, we should do it in faith but also with understanding. Speaking in general about prayer, Paul wrote: “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.” (I Corinthians 14:15) (2) When someone asks us to pray for them, we should make sure what their exact petition is. Sometimes, we just assume the obvious and ask accordingly. One pastor I know was approached by one of his members who asked prayer. She said her husband left her and was very worried about it. He too, instantly lifted up his prayer and said “Oh Lord, please speak to this man’s heart to come back home immediately.” She quickly interrupted him saying: “Oh no pastor! I wanted you to pray that he never comes back.” I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “Be careful what you pray for.” That is some very sound advice.
God’s word for today: (Philippians 4:6) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
While waiting in the customer’s lounge earlier today as our car got it’s scheduled maintenance, I was subjected to watch a program who had as a special guest, a so-called life coach. He was expounding his personally devised method on how to find true happiness and fulfillment. As usual, the host as well as the audience was “eating it up.” To me, it was one more reminder of man’s futile attempts to get the best out of life with God completely out of the picture.
Three bible verses immediately came to mind as I continued watching this silliness: (1) (Proverbs 14:12) “There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death. (1 Corinthians 1:20) “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” and (James 1:17) “Whatever is good and perfect comes to us from God. He is the One Who made all light. He does not change. No shadow is made by His turning.”
As I meditated on these verses in light of the foolishness I was watching on the screen, these questions came to mind. Really, can men take us to true happiness and fulfillment, and not God? Can anyone else, other than God, offer us an abundant life? Outside of God, (Christ) Can we find love, peace, joy, hope, and assurance, among other excellent things? Almost all true children of God have been on both sides of the fence, so to speak. If our life before Jesus was so great, wouldn’t most of us rush back to it? No, sir! Even little dogs will drop an old dry piece of bone when offered a fresh piece of meat or chicken. Here’s the bottom line: Don’t be fooled by imitations. All you will ever need to be truly happy, fulfilled and satisfied in this life, will be found in Christ.
God’s promise for today: (Proverbs 19:23) “The fear of the Lord leads to life, And he who has it will abide in satisfaction; He will not be visited with evil.”
A very well known and beloved bible verse is Romans 8:28 which reads: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” To many of us, that verse is a reminder that God has a habit of taking a painful, sad, even tragic event in our lives and turn it around to do us good. I can almost hear an “amen” from many of you. One good example of that truth is what happened in the life of Joseph. His many painful experiences, including the one in which his own brothers sold him as a slave, could have destroyed him forever. God turned that experience around and it became the best thing that ever happened to him. In fact, it was the best thing that happened in the lives of his brothers. After Jacob, their father, died, Joseph’s brothers, fearing retaliation, humbly and meekly asked his pardon. Joseph replied: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)
Actually, I was reminded of this truth some time back when I heard a line in an old popular song which said something like: “What can you do with a broken heart?” My immediate thought was: “By God’s grace, you can do something good with it.” Some of you are aware that many great hymns and Christian songs were born from someone’s broken heart. Two prime examples are Horatio Spafford’s “It Is Well With My Soul” and Thomas A. Dorsey’s “Precious Lord Take My Hand.” These two men did something great with their broken hearts. Their hymns have inspired, blessed, and comforted millions of people and will continue to do so until Jesus returns.
If you are struggling today with the painful effects of a broken heart, do what your God does: Turn it around! In fact, your broken heart is what God may use to bless, inspire and comfort those around you. Whining, sulking, feeling sorry for themselves, and bringing many others down with them, is something losers do. God’s children, on the other hand, regardless of their situation, bless those around them. That is because they are more than winners, they are conquerors.
God’s promise for today: (Psalm 34:19) “The righteous have many troubles, but the Lord delivers them from them all.”