Scripture for the day: Mark 7:1-8 Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him, having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men. Thought for the day: It all began before the plane took off. The businessman was sitting in the window seat and was looking forward to thumbing through a magazine on a short flight from Sacramento to attend a National Youth Ministry Conference in San Diego, California. He’d fastened his seat belt, made sure his chair was in the full upright position, his tray table was locked and that his luggage was properly stowed when two well-dressed Ally McBeal look-a-likes sat down next to him. Their conversation competed for attention with his magazine. They talked about the club scene-what they enjoyed drinking, who they were "dating," their intimate relationships with men, both single and married. Then it turned into a gripe session. "Why do guys have such a hard time committing?" One asked. "And why don’t they ever leave their wives like they promise to?" the other complained. They talked about work for a while, and about the time the man was tuning out, one of them said, "But you know, if it wasn’t for church, my life would really be hell." By now, the man was only pretending to read his magazine; they had his full attention. "Wow, you go to church too. I know exactly how you feel. If it wasn’t for church, I don’t know where I’d be." "Yeah, I know what you mean," the other lady said, "if I miss more than two weeks of church everything in my life goes nuts." The plane started its descent into San Diego and everything got quiet, and the unwitting eavesdropper sat still – stunned by what he’d just heard. He concluded that worship, to these ladies, was just a "religious fix." I wonder how many of us, even unconsciously, treat our time at the Lord’s House in the same way? I wonder how much of what we do regarding our “religion” is designed to make us feel better about ourselves? Or could it be that we’ve gotten so much into the habit of church attendance that it’s become like a day off or a hike in the mountains; meant to provide a needed shot in the arm, a renewal of the energy we will need to go through the next week? Jesus was trying to say to the Pharisees that their religion had become an effort at keeping the rules, performing the rituals and maintaining a habit rather than being a life they lived. They had, like so many of us are inclined to do, substituted religion for faith. Their religion was like a drug that kept them going but did nothing to impact their lives. They could hate their neighbor and be a good church member. They could cheat in business and as long as they tithed, were considered upright and righteous by those in their synagogue. If my so-called religion doesn’t impact every facet of my life, if I don’t have the love of God, then I am, as Paul said, “Nothing but sounding brass and clanging symbols.” Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I was hungry 5/21/13
Scripture for the day: Psalm 107:8-9 Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness. Thought for the day: If you were truly hungry, what would you eat? Would you catch and cook a rat if you were really hungry? What about a snake; would you catch a snake, skin it and cook it over an open fire? (actually, that doesn’t sound too bad when you think about it). What about grubs you might find under rotting logs; would you eat them if you were really hungry? I don’t know where the limit might be, but I do know most of us in America have no idea what real hunger is all about. We think that if we skip lunch and our stomach is growling along about 3 PM that we’re experiencing hunger. If that were to happen today and the next meal offered to you consisted of grasshoppers, field mice and wood grubs cooked together in a stew pot, how hungry would you feel? Most of us would run to the nearest exit! In May of 1846, 187 men, women and children left from Missouri in a wagon train headed to California. There was nothing exceptional about the group or this journey and we would have never known about them had they not made the decision to try a shortcut. The “Hastings Cutoff”, as it was known, was indeed a shorter route to their destination but it had only been tried on horseback. No wagon had made the journey. This group, now known as “The Donner Party”, would not complete their journey. This group is famous because of allegations of cannibalism that occurred within the group while waiting for rescue. We find the thought repugnant and disgusting. We like to believe that, no matter what, we would never do such a thing. It would be more accurate to say, “I have not been that hungry yet” than to say “I would never eat that.” The survivors were high in the Sierra Madre for three months with no food at all. I have heard people make the observation that, “I wasn’t fed at church.” I assume they mean that they didn’t learn anything useful or that they didn’t feel the presence of God. I also have heard the charge that, “I don’t like doing it this way” or “I don’t like that version of the Bible.” I compare this to my kids coming to me complaining that there is nothing to eat in the house. When I point out various options, they exclaim, “I don’t like that.” My response is always the same. Then you aren’t truly hungry yet. You know who doesn’t like what is spread on God’s table? The one that isn’t hungry. The one seeking self-satisfaction and validation; who wants to pick and choose the ways they will worship. The one that doesn’t think they need God or that one thing God wants to show them. They are full... of themselves. In Matthew 5:6, Jesus commends the one that “hungers and thirsts” for righteousness. Think Donner Party hungry. Desperate. Without pride or will. With one goal and one goal only - to be fed. To eat readily from whatever it is God lays on the table. To accept whatever condition, correction or assignment He throws at us without hesitation. When we come to Church and worship in such a way, according to Jesus, we will leave filled and content. So when we leave still hungry and discontented, whose fault is it? I want to encourage you today; allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart as he is searching mine. Are you hungry? If so, for what? Many hunger and thirst after a good feeling. Many look carefully for something at the church that will validate their thoughts and ideas. Others hunger and thirst after good fellowship. But only those who are truly hungry will be fed on the righteousness of God. They shall be filled “with all the fullness of Christ.” They will “walk and not stumble, run and not grow weary.” They will find their strength renewed day by day. They will be fed with manna from heaven and drink from the fountain of life. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Sweet hour of prayer? 5/20/13
Scripture for the day: Luke 18:1-5 Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Thought for the day: Where’s my money? I forwarded the prayer chain letter sent to me by some anonymous Christian who wants only to see me prosper; so where’s the promised outpouring of God’s blessings? I don’t feel any better, no one has called to let me know they’re on my side, money hasn’t fallen out of the sky and all the same challenges I experienced yesterday are still in front of me today. Hmmm; there was that one prayer chain letter I failed to forward back in April. I wonder if that’s the reason God doesn’t seem to be blessing me right now. Honestly, when did the Church begin believing in the power of chain letters? Let me give you an example of real prayer. Max Lucado told of a church in Scotland back in the 1940s that was struggling to keep the doors open. A couple of its members were two older ladies who were invalids and couldn’t get out for worship any longer. But these ladies refused to allow their infirmities to get in the way of serving their God. They became convinced that their community needed Jesus desperately and they were going to do something about it. They were going to pray. They determined to make their house a house of prayer. Around the clock they prayed for God do something powerful. Then one day, one of the ladies became convinced that God wanted a revivalist by the name of Campbell to come and hold meetings at their church. They talked to their preacher and he contacted Campbell...but Campbell was unavailable. He was booked up. The women refused to give up in their prayers however and it wasn’t long before, oddly enough, some of Campbell’s other revivals became cancelled and he decided to accept the invitation of that small church. He arrived and held five weeks of meetings. The Revival was so well received that hundreds showed up each night. And lives were so changed that many of the local taverns had to close up because they lacked patrons. One might think it was because of the powerful preaching of a renowned revivalist. But in reality it was because of the faithfulness of two invalid older ladies who dedicated themselves to prayer. Is there anything else we’re supposed to do? Of course; there must come a time when we begin to put feet to our prayers, move out of the seats and get into the streets. But prayer must go before any other efforts we might make. Prayer must be a continuing support system for the best programs we may have. Prayer absolutely must be our first priority in trying to accomplish any good thing in the name of the Kingdom. Without fervent prayer, our best-laid plans will be ineffective at best and could even end up being counter-productive. So, what is it that God needs to do? Keep praying. Today’s scripture does not teach us that God is hard of hearing. Nor should we get the impression that the Lord is reluctant to answer our prayers. That’s not the point. The idea is that we should never give up. Is there someone you’ve been praying for that they would find the Lord? Don’t give up. God never forces anyone to decide for him but he will engineer circumstances to bring that person in contact with believers who can share the Good News. Keep praying; God is not done working and the answer may be at the end of your next prayer time. Now, send this on to at least 73 of your closest friends within the next 15 seconds and within two hours someone representing Bill Gates will call to tell you how much money he is transferring into your checking account. Remember, if you fail to send this on, your hair will fall out, you’ll experience the heartbreak of psoriasis, and if you have a mother-in-law, she’ll come to visit - for three months! Now, take the time (no one’s going to give it to you) to spend some time with the Lord in prayer, trust that he is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think,” and… Go take on your world. P.S. I’m sorry but you’ve taken more than the required 15 seconds in reading the rest of this note and Bill Gates will not be calling.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The great need of the day 5/17/13
Scripture for the day: Acts 15:7-9 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. (NLT) Thought for the day: We need better technology if we’re going to see the church move forward in today’s high-tech world. The fact is, we have more technology than we’re generally able to fully use. What we really need is better educated pastors and leaders. If our pastors could get a higher degree of education they’d be better able to lead and the church would grow. The truth is, those who occupy our pulpits are the most highly educated in history. To tell the real truth, we need better programs designed to meet the needs of the people in our community. It’s the only way they’ll ever listen to us when we share the gospel. The real truth is programs have never been better designed or easier to implement. And the list could go on and on. We need more people, less resistance from outside sources, a more positive message, a greater degree of social conscience. The real truth is none of those things will make any difference if we’re missing the one ingredient absolutely essential for each of us as individuals and we as a church. One of the great preachers in U.S. history is D. L. Moody. He pastored in Chicago and there is still a wonderful Bible College there that bears his name and values. Mr. Moody was a successful minister, but by his own admission, he lacked the power in his ministry. One day two women came up to him after a service. They said, "We have been praying for you." "Why don't you pray for the people?" he asked. "Because you need the power of the Spirit," they said. "I need the power! Why?" said Mr. Moody In relating the incident years after he writes, "I thought I had power. I had the largest congregation in Chicago, and there were many conversions." Moody also said that in a sense, he was satisfied. He was in a comfort zone. But these two praying women rocked the boat. They told him that they were praying for an anointing by the Holy Spirit. Mr. Moody could not get this off his mind and he wrote, "There came a great hunger in my soul. I did not know what it was and I began to cry out to God as never before. I felt I did not want to live if I could not have this power for service." Rev. Moody began crying out for God to fill him. He withdrew, prayed, and sought it over a period of time. He writes the following: "Well, one day, in the city of New York -- oh, what a day! -- I cannot describe it, I seldom refer to it; it is almost too sacred an experience to name. Paul had an experience of which he never spoke for fourteen years. I can only say that God revealed Himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay His hand. I went to preaching again. The sermons were not different; I did not present any new truths, and yet hundreds were converted. I would not now be placed back where I was before that blessed experience if you should give me all the world." We can develop the best programs the world has ever seen and never receive what we really need. Jesus told his disciples, “I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49). And he said, “John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now [and] you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:5,8). The church (and that’s you and me) needs today what the church then had; the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. The church need not abandon her desire for better technology, more educated pastors, and all the rest, but she needs to put all those things under the control of the Holy Spirit. If the church forgets her basis for being, the infilling presence of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individuals, then she becomes no better or effective than any other community organization operating in the world today. The real difference, the absolute basic need of the church, the only way to be truly effective in the world today, is the power of the Holy Spirit in each individual. Even so, come Lord Jesus. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- You have authority! (pronounced POW-ah) 5/16/13
Scripture for the day: 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Thought for the day: When I was in the Navy, many years ago, there was always a “strip,” that piece of real estate somewhere near the main gate of every base where the average sailor could find any conceivable sin within walking (or quite often, staggering) distance of the ship. These areas were filled with bars, tattoo parlors and strip clubs, ensuring a good time for any who would dare venture within the walls. Where none of these were present, there was always an adult movie theater or some other attraction and, of course, any number of places where the sailor could get a loan when he ran out of money. I remember walking down one of these strips one day, just as a curiosity you understand; not as a participant. I would never have been one of the participants! Anyway, as I walked along I passed a bar where there was obviously some trouble. Two men were being ushered out the door and they were obviously drunk. Now these two guys were big; I mean really big. If they weren’t on steroids they were pumping a lot of iron and either of them looked as if he could kill you without breaking a sweat. There was a bouncer there trying to get things under control, without much success. Just then I heard a siren in the background and decided to hang around to see what would happen. A police car pulled up in front of the bar and I watched as the officer got out. She was about five feet tall, slender and very feminine looking. Now I don’t mean to be sexist or anything but, if I’ve called the police because two weight-lifting drunks are tearing up my place, I want them to send a 6’5” linebacker type of policeman – with backup, not someone who looks like she would be devastated by a broken fingernail. By this time I couldn’t have left if I’d wanted to. This petite officer walked confidently toward the two drunks and said, “Gentlemen, do we have a problem here?” “No, there’s no problem,” one of them said. “Get lost.” “Excuse me,” she said, pointing to the badge pinned to the left side of her uniform shirt, “I’m authorized by the city of Norfolk to enforce the law. Do you understand that? Over against the car; right now. Let’s move it.” The men began to show their intention to resist and took a step in her direction. The officer quickly loosened the restraint on the handgun strapped to her hip and pointed to the car without another word. Both men put their hands on the car and, in a matter of seconds, this tiny police officer had both of them frisked and in handcuffs. Do you know why? She had all the authority she needed because she had been given that power by one greater than herself – and she knew it. Well my friend, you are a child of the King and as such you have the authority of the King vested in you by your position in his family. You have at your side the Word of God, which is all the ammunition you’ll ever need to defeat the biggest, most difficult adversaries. Satan himself must listen and obey when the Word of God is aimed in direction. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” And how do we resist? We resist “by the blood of the Lamb and by [our] testimony.” We resist by putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6). We resist by being reminded of the “back-up” we have in the person of the Holy Spirit who knows our every weakness. We resist when we “look to the hills; and are reminded that “my help comes from the Lord.” Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Go and tell 5/15/13
Scripture for the day: Mark 5:18-20 When Jesus got back into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go, too. But Jesus said, "No, go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful He has been." So the man started off to visit the Decapolis (Ten Towns) of that region and began to tell everyone about the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them. Thought for the day:
We cannot all be heroes, And thrill a hemisphere, With some great daring venture, Some deed that mocks at fear; But we can fill a lifetime With kindly acts and true; There's always noble service For noble hearts to do.
We cannot all be preachers, And sway with voice and pen, As strong winds sway the forest, The mind and hearts of men; But we can be evangels To souls within our reach; There's always Love's own gospel For loving hearts to preach.
We cannot all be martyrs, And win a deathless name By some Divine baptism, Some ministry of flame; But we can live for truth's sake, Can do for Christ and dare; There's always faithful witness For faithful hearts to bear.
There are two lessons to be learned from today's scripture that I think are most important; even revolutionary. One is simple and easy to understand. The other may just as simple, but a bit more difficult to accept. First, there's the obvious; we aren't all going to be Billy Grahams, preaching to millions and watching as thousands accept the invitation to follow Christ. We aren't all going to be missionaries to some foreign field where hundreds are ushered into the Kingdom through our years of sacrifice. We're not all going to be on the stage, singing, acting or preaching while countless saints adore us for the talents we bring to the service of the King. The example of the man set free from the demons that had oppressed him for so long is a prime example. He wanted to desperately to go on the road with Jesus, and can you blame him? The Lord had just given him a freedom he'd perhaps never really known in his adult life. He'd seen the grace of God and felt His mercy firsthand and wanted nothing more than to assist the Lord in helping others like himself. But Jesus had other plans. "Go back home and tell everyone what the Lord has done for you," Jesus said (and I believe He said it with a knowing smile on His face). The foreign fields are important, the big arenas are impressive and important. The flashy, showy, up-front ministries are accomplishing great things for the kingdom. But they're not the backbone of what Jesus is doing. The real victories come in the day-to-day encounters with people all around us; one person, one soul at a time. That's lesson number one, and I believe that man went back to his home town looking at his neighbors in a whole new way. They saw him as the frightening result of a miracle of God; he saw them as people who needed just as radical a transformation as he'd experienced. And that brings us to the second lesson. He went all around the county telling everyone what Jesus had done for him. It was the only testimony he had but he was proud to share it with anyone who would listen. In fact, I think he was so adamant about sharing his new-found freedom in Christ that some people probably thought he was still a bit crazy. I can picture him going from door to door, marketplace to marketplace, person to person, telling everyone who would take the time to listen about what Jesus had done in his life. He probably frightened them with stories of what he was like before Jesus came into his life; then amazed them with the transformation that had taken place. And what of you and me? Can we say we're as enthusiastic as this unnamed tomb-dweller? When was the last time we got so excited about our own faith that we just had to share it with others? I guess the real question becomes this: if we're not excited about what Jesus has done for us, the transformation that's taken place because of our meeting Him face to face, has there been that much of a transformation to begin with. Think about it for a few moments and then... Go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The danger of anger 5/14/13 Scripture for the day: Hebrews 12:14-17 Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. Make sure that no one is immoral or godless like Esau, who traded his birthright as the firstborn son for a single meal. You know that afterward, when he wanted his father’s blessing, he was rejected. It was too late for repentance, even though he begged with bitter tears. (NLT) Thought for the day: God’s Word (not me) says, “Be angry and sin not.” We also read, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Being angry with another person and holding onto that anger is one of the most destructive things we can do; even to the point of eternal destruction. Several years ago, I had a nightmare, it was terrible. In a dream, I saw one of my most serious workers at church dying a terrible death. As my church worker was dying, I saw a battle going against my member. I was broken beyond belief, as I saw this dedicated Christian worker die and the Devil was grabbing the individual and taking the soul to hell. The smell was terrible, I could smell the enemy and hell. This was so real. In the dream, I started screaming, “This is a terrible mistake! No way enemy, you can’t have this worker! I have counted on them to do many things to build this church. They have touched many people and led many to the Lord. I am a better pastor because of this individual, and the church is a better church, after all the hours and efforts this family has invested in the church.” The enemy was slowly dragging my church member toward the lake of fire and great torment. We could hear the horrible sounds coming out of hell. The smell was so real and horrible, I shall never forget. I was thinking, maybe there was secret sin, and they were playing Christian games. This was not the problem. I tried to fight for my dear friend and the enemy kept slowly pulling my member towards hell. The fight was very painful. I said, “This is a good person. This family paid their tithes. They were faithful to church. I could count on them. What is going on here?" Jesus help me! What is going on here?” With tears in His eyes, Jesus came to me and said, “I have tried and I have tried to change the events of this day. I have personally sent messages through you to warn this individual. I have sent radio messages to expose the sin. I have given the words to television preachers, and they watched with zeal, but My words were unheeded. This person has cassette tapes that have warned them, but they have not heard the message I have spoken to them. This person has books on their shelf, they have read the parts they like, but the message I gave them was unheeded.” “As a matter of record, when they heard the message, they said the message was for someone else. They even said, amen, let it be, but they thought the message was for the other party.” I again questioned, “Why Jesus, what is the wrong? I knew them! They are good people.” With tears running down his face, Jesus said, "This individual was very angry, and full of wrath. Bitterness was rampant daily, and unforgiveness had helped to bring an early death. The home was full of coldness and painful rejection. This person had allowed a critical spirit to tear down the confidence in everyone. They refused to pray. Their hurt and disappointments had become the driving force in their heart. The anger they carried had brought physical affliction, yet this never got their attention to correct.” The person had rejected forgiveness, and justified his actions because of unforgiveness. I was absolutely broken, as I saw one of my best friends escorted into hell. I could do nothing to change the hard heart, the hurt, the bitterness, --- the bait had been accepted. The trap had locked on the neck. I understood blasphemy as never before. By focusing on the bitterness and pain, the person had shown contempt and the lack of reverence for God or His people. Jesus had warned, the anger was turning into wrath. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” And the cancer of anger, which eats away at the soul, will be cured. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Learning to tribulate 5/13/13
Scripture for the day: Romans 5:1-5 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Thought for the day: “We glory it tribulations.” Yeah, right; when was the last time you heard anyone singing praise songs to Jesus when they were in the middle of the worst times of their lives? Aren’t we a lot more likely to sing the why me song? Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve heard many of the old saints of the church rejoicing in the midst of the worst experiences of their lives. I remember a lady named Norma who praised God when she was in excruciating pain, dying of cancer. Not once did she ever ask the question: why me? I remember a young lady named Susan who’s only expressed regret was that in her 40 years of life she’d not had the opportunity to impact more people for Jesus. When the funeral was held, the church was full to overflowing and letters were sent from many who could not get to the celebration of her life. Nearly her entire family had been led to the Lord through her testimony and her attitude. And the list could go on and on. There was a little old lady in a small town somewhere who had faced more trials and challenges than anyone her age ought to have experienced. As each new mountain arose in front of her she smiled and began to climb, just as she had the hundreds she’d scaled before. Finally the pastor went to visit with her and said, “My dear, I’ve never met anyone who’s experienced the things that have plagued your life. How do you manage to keep such a sweet and positive spirit?” The little old saint replied, “Well pastor, a long time ago I read in the word that in this world we would have tribulations. I thought to myself, ‘If the Lord has told me I’m to have tribulations, I might as well learn how to tribulate.’” There’s wisdom in those words for each of us. Richard Wurmbrand was a Romanian Pastor who was imprisoned by the Russians and tortured for his faith in Christ. In May of 1966 Pastor Wurmbrand testified in Washington before the United State Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee. During this testimony Pastor Wurmbrand stripped to the waist to show 18 deep torture wounds that covered his body. After the Communists came to power in Romania, they convened a congress of all Christian bodies in Romania’s Parliament Buidling. There were 4,000 pastors, priests and ministers from different denominations in attendance. These 4,000 chose Joseph Stalin as honorary president of this congress. Pastor Wurmbrand recounts that one after another, bishops and pastors arose and declared that communism and Christianity were the same and could coexist together. This was at the same time that Joseph Stalin was raising Russian children to be atheists and at the same time killing Christians. Pastor Wurmbrand and his wife were there and his wife said to him, "Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ. They are spitting in his face." He said to his wife, "If I do so, you lose your husband." She said, "I do not wish to have a coward for a husband." So Pastor Wurmbrand stood up and began to praise Christ and declared that their first loyalty was to God and His Son. Pastor Wurmbrand wrote, "Afterward I had to pay for this, but it had been worthwhile." How much easier it is to simply float downstream, carried along without effort by the current. How much safer we are when we go along with the crowd, adhere to the prevailing opinions of the majority. How much more enjoyable life would be if we didn’t have the afflictions that so often plague us. And how much weaker we would be if there were no struggles coming our way. “Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say rejoice!” “Endure hardship as a good soldier.” “Count it all pure joy when you fall into various trials…that you may be complete, lacking nothing.” Learn to tribulate and the reward of a life hidden in Christ will be yours. Read again the scripture for today. Rejoice in the tribulations you are facing today, knowing that they are being used of God to give you strength and to mold your character into the very image of Him. These will produce a living hope that will not be disappointed; but rewarded. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- My forever family 5/9/13
Scripture for the day: Romans 8:12-16 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors; not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Thought for the day: And “What manner of love is this, that we should be called children of God?” One wise young man commented, after a stranger had pointed out how little he looked like his brother, “I’m adopted. That’s when you have the same name but a different face.” Stop reading! Sit back for a moment and let that thought sink in. You and I are brothers and sisters because we’ve been adopted into the same family. We don’t often look alike; we have different backgrounds, different likes and dislikes, different needs and desires, and any number of other differences. But we have this in common; we’ve been adopted into the family whose Father is the Lord God Almighty. The forty year-old lady sat with a group of people she’d just met and began to share her background. She said, "When I was a tiny little girl, my parents died and I was put in an orphanage. I was not pretty at all and no one seemed to want me. But I longed to be adopted and loved by a family as far back as I can remember. I thought about it day and night, but everything I did seemed to go wrong. I must have tried too hard to please the people who came to look me over and what I did was to drive them away.” "But then one day the head of the orphanage told me that a family was coming to take me home with them. I was so excited that I jumped up and down and cried like a little baby. The matron reminded me that I was on trial and this might not be a permanent arrangement, but I just knew that somehow it would work out.” "So I went with this family and started to school. I was the happiest little girl you can imagine, and life began to open up for me just a little. But then one day a few months later, I skipped home from school and ran into the front door of the big old house we lived in. No one was at home, but in the middle of the front hall was my battered suitcase with my little coat thrown across it. As I stood there it suddenly dawned on me what it meant---I didn’t belong there anymore." When the woman stopped speaking there was hardly a dry eye in the group. But then she cleared her throat and said almost matter-of-factly, "This happened to me seven times before I was 13 years old. But wait, don’t feel too badly. It was experiences like these that ultimately brought me to God---and there I found what I had always longed for---a place, a sense of belonging, a forever family." A forever family – what a thought! When I’ve done all I can do for the family and the day is over, I don’t have to go to the Father and ask, “Have I done enough? Do you still want me? Can I still be part of the family?” I’m part of the family for as long as I wish to remain. He has adopted me and his decision is final. The only thing that can separate me from the Father and from his family is my own free will. Stop reading again. Think about how many times you may have been disappointed, abandoned, betrayed, or worse. How many have taken advantage of you? How often have you felt like a failure, a loser, a nobody? Now let this sink in: you’re part of God’s forever family! Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- But do you believe? 5/8/13
Scripture for the day: Luke 24:25-27 Then he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. Thought for the day: Do you believe this? How many times did the Lord Jesus ask these words of those he met? Mary and Martha were confronted while they stood outside the tomb of their recently dead brother Lazarus. Half the people Jesus healed were asked about their faith before anything was accomplished. How many times did Jesus confront his disciples concerning the depth of their faith; and how many times was he disappointed at their lack? How many times and in how many ways are you and I confronted with the question of our own faith each and every day – and how often is the Lord disappointed with our response? You see, far too many of us are effectively Christian atheists. That may be a bit strong but how often do we recite all the right words concerning our trust in Christ and then live our lives as if he didn’t even exist? Honestly, when we’re confronted with some crisis or another, we go to prayer, bring our needs to others in the church so they can pray with us, and then run about searching everywhere except the throne of grace for the answer. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not easy to be a believer in Jesus Christ. When he asks us to believe in him, he’s asking that we go way beyond an intellectual assent that he exists and is the Son of God. Belief in Jesus Christ means that I am going to bank all my confidence in him. I will be able to say with the apostle Paul, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed to him against that day,” and then go out and live as if that were true. So often I’m afraid we profess great faith when in fact we exhibit so little. We pray with the disciples, “Increase our faith!” and then go about our business trying to bring about the results we’re looking for in the challenges of life. Jesus says to us, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” We say, without really saying it, “Right Lord, I’ll bring that up when I see my psychiatrist next week. Again, don’t misunderstand; I have nothing against honest Christ-centered counseling. Those who engage in the ministry of counseling can help in so many ways. The problem arises not when we have a counselor to help us in our journey, but when we begin to question, “does God really want me to have an untroubled heart?” Is that even possible? Can we truly look at the reality of our lives and not be troubled? If we are living a life that has as its basic characteristic a complete and utterly child-like trust in Jesus Christ for every need we may encounter, then the answer must be yes. So the question becomes – how do I get to that point of complete trust? How do I go back to the mindset of my childhood and believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that he will do exactly as he has promised? Here’s a thought; take it for what you consider it to be worth. Most of us didn’t get to be world-class cynics or doubting Thomases over night. Most of us took years to develop the attitude that allows us to express faith in Christ while living as if we had none. What if we took a baby step back toward that child-like faith? Choose one thing that has been troubling you (try not to go with something like the lack of world peace). Take it to Jesus and leave it with him. Now, every time Satan brings it back to your mind, tell him, “I know who I have believed …” and refuse to allow your mind to dwell on that concern. Practice an untroubled mind, at least in that one area. Once you’ve realized that the Lord isn’t going to let you down, move on to another area that has been causing anxiety and repeat the process. Before you know it you’ll be living a life that witnesses to the faith you’ve always claimed. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Been there; done that 5/7/13
Scripture for the day: Hebrews 4:14-16 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Thought for the day: The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us: “There is nothing new under the sun,” and if we stop to think about it, he’s absolutely right. Oh, we think of the means of communication we have at our disposal today and wonder sometimes what someone in the 1800’s would think if they saw people walking around with a telephone sticking out of their ear, apparently talking aloud to themselves in the middle of a crowded department store, and we’re convinced there truly is something new under the sun. The truth is, though we may have many new gadgets our ancestors couldn’t even begin to dream about, within the heart of mankind there is nothing new- absolutely nothing. No matter what any of us face this morning, it’s not new. Someone has been through it before. And in a way, that’s good news for us. See if you can identify with the following person. Dear Sirs, I was recently moving 500 pounds of bricks from the top of a 5 story building. It would take too long to carry them down so I put them in a bucket, and lowered them by a pulley which I fastened to the top of the building. After tying the rope securely at the ground level I returned to the top of the building, tied the other end to the barrel, loaded it with bricks and swung it over the side of the building for the descent. Then I returned to the sidewalk and untied the rope: holding it securely to guide the barrel down slowly. Since the bucket weighed 500 pounds and I weigh only 150 pounds (before the accident}, the force of the descending bricks jerked me into the air so quickly that I did not have time to think about letting go. As I passed between the second and third floors I met the barrel coming down. This accounts for the bruises and lacerations on my upper body. Still, I held tightly to the rope until I reached the top where my hand became jammed into the pulley, this accounts for the broken fingers. At the same time, however, the barrel crashed into the sidewalk and the bottom broke out. With the weight of the bricks now gone, the barrel weighed only forty pounds. Thus, my 150 pound body began a swift decent. My decent was slowed only slightly as I met the bucket coming up...this accounts for my broken ankles. My decent continued until I crashed onto the pile of bricks... this accounts for my sprained back and broken collar bone. At that time, I guess I lost my presence of mind completely and let go of the rope. The empty 40 pound bucket then came crashing down from 5 floors on top of me... this accounts for the head injuries. Every time we hear a story like that we want to say, “Been there; done that.” We can identify with the person who’s plagued by the worst luck in the world. We know what it’s like to attempt one simple thing only to see everything else go south on us. We can sympathize with the one who’s giving everything she’s got only to have circumstances overwhelm over and over again. But here’s the good news; no matter what we face today, we may be assured there is someone out there who can say to us, “I know where you’re at; I know what you’re facing. Been there; done that.” And aren’t you glad that’s true? Wouldn’t you feel better talking to someone who’s experienced what you’re facing than to sit with someone who’s only read about it in books? And you can because “He was tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin.” God doesn’t know what it’s like to be young. Jesus does. God has never been tempted with what I face every day. Jesus was. God can’t possibly understand how badly I’ve been betrayed. Jesus does; take a look at the disciples. God has never been alone; how can he sympathize with my loneliness? Jesus went to the cross without one friend by his side. There is nothing you face today that Jesus didn’t also experience in one form or another. Absolutely nothing. Therefore there is nothing you can’t talk to him about. That’s why we’re encouraged to “come boldly before the throne of grace.” Approach the throne boldly today, knowing that the one who sits on the throne knows exactly where you are, what you’ve done, how you may have failed and how deeply you may be hurting. And remember, it’s the throne of Grace, where you get what you don’t deserve, mercy. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Those two little words 5/6/13
Scripture for the day: Luke 10:30-37 Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Thought for the day: Today’s scripture is one of the most familiar in all the New Testament and yet there is always something more to be gleaned from the story of the good Samaritan. I included the whole account just to get to the last four words, “Go and do likewise.” This is always uses as an impetus toward compassionate ministries within the sphere of the church, and rightfully so. But, as with so many of these small verses, there’s a lot more to it than just the need for compassion. Look again at those two small words in this sentence: “Go” and “Do.” Stay and talk may be a wonderful way to pass the afternoon, but go and do are vital if we are to become real disciples of Jesus Christ. Let's pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I'm the owner and I'm interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and move to Europe for six to eight months. And I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you directions and instructions. I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations. Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival, I drive down to the office and I am stunned. Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the receptionist's room. She is doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing. The carpet hasn’t been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I ask about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, "I think he's down there." Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office, which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas. "What in the world is going on, man?" "What do you mean?" "Well, look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?" "Letters? Oh yes! Sure! I got every one of them. As a matter of fact, we have had a letter study every Friday since you left. We have even divided the personnel into small groups to discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of the things were really interesting. You will be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two - Great stuff in those letters." "OK. You got my letters. You studied them and meditated on them; discussed and even memorized them. But what did you do about them?" "Do? We didn’t do anything about them." 1 James said we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only for, “faith without works is dead.” I love Bible study but Bible study must at some point become Bible action or I’m no better than the man in our story. But Bill, what if I begin to do some of the things mentioned in the Bible and get it wrong? What if you get it right? Or what if you do get it wrong? You could end up like Thomas Edison when asked about all his failures. He said, “Results? Of course I’ve gotten results; I know several thousand things that won’t work.” But I might stumble and fall. True enough, but at least if you’re moving you’ll fall forward. I could get hurt stepping out. Again, true enough. I realize you can’t stub your toe unless you’re moving forward, but I think toe scars are a sign of action and ought to be gazed upon with pride. When there’s a hill to climb, don’t think that waiting will make it any smaller. Now go take on your world. - Bill 1. "Improving your serve." Chuck Swindoll
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I can only imagine 5/3/13
Scripture for the day: 1 Peter 2:21-24 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. Thought for the day: The following story is something I found on the Internet. I only wish I had the imagination to have written it myself. Read carefully. At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly – not with cringing shame, but with belligerence. “Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?” snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror … beatings … torture … death!” In another group an African-American boy lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched … for no crime but being black!” In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: “Why should I suffer?” she murmured, “It wasn’t my fault.” Far out across the plain there were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he permitted in his world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping or fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said. So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most; a Jew, an African-American, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child. In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather clever. Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth – as a man! “Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured. At last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die. Let him die so that there can be no doubt that he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.” As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. And when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No-one uttered another word. No-one moved. For suddenly all knew that God had already served his sentence. 1 Jesus is qualified to judge for he was judged. He is qualified to consider every reason ever devised for rejecting him for he was rejected. Jesus is qualified to refuse any excuse for he was “tempted in all ways as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is worthy to sit on that judgment seat because he paid the price with his own life. As I said in a sermon recently: “He paid the debt he did not owe because I owed a debt I could not pay.” Be thankful and…. Go take on your world. - Bill 1. From a short play entitled: “The Long Silence”, by John McNeil
Scripture for the day: Psalm 139:13-16 You formed my inward parts; you covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. Thought for the day: I met a man the other day, confined to a wheelchair for most if not all of his life. He’s a prisoner in a body that simply refuses to function as the Lord intended. He can’t speak except to make uncertain sounds that no one other than he seems to be able to understand. The man needs help for literally every function of the day, from eating to bathing to getting dressed and even moving from one room to another. He also has a definite and unique personality, given to him by the Lord who created him. This man helps those who meet him to put into perspective their own lives. I’ve often heard such comments as, “When you see him (or any other person in similar circumstances) it makes you a bit more thankful for your own life. Your problems don’t seem so big.” I know the intent of the comments and I appreciate what these good folks are trying to say. But I wonder sometimes, does it take meeting someone like the man I met to keep us in an attitude of gratitude? David said, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Have you ever stopped to consider what that means? See if you recognize the following “creation.” It is a self-balancing, 28-jointed adapter based bi-ped with the following: Millions of warning signals, railroad and conveyor systems…crushers and cranes (of which the arms are magnificent 23-jointed affairs with self-surfacing and lubricating systems); a universally distributed communication system needing no service for 70 years if well managed; an electrochemical reduction-plant, integral with segregated storages of special energy extracts in storage batteries, for subsequent actuation of thousands of hydraulic and pneumatic pumps, with motors attached…62,000 miles of capillaries. And the whole, extraordinarily complex mechanism is guided with exquisite precision from a turret in which are located telescopic and microscopic self-registering, steroscopic and recording range finders, a spectroscope, a specially designed unit capable of detecting changes in atmospheric chemical makeup to as few as 100 ppm (parts per million), and another, equally sensitive detector designed to discriminate between various chemical compounds. The turret control is closely allied with an air conditioning intake-and-exhaust and with a main fuel intake. Within the few cubic inches that house the turret mechanism, there is room, also, for two sound wave and sound-direction-finder recording diaphragms. There is an expertly devised analytical laboratory large enough not only to contain minute records of every last and continual event of up to 70 years or more experience, but to extend, by computation and abstract fabrication, this experience with relative accuracy into all corners of the observed universe as well as a forecasting and tactical plotting department for the reduction of future possibilities and probabilities to generally successful specific choices.1 Another way to say the above is: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Praise the Lord! Great things he has done. Before I was born the Lord saw all the days of my life. It is beyond the scope of my imagination to understand all the Lord has given me, all he has blessed me with, and in more ways than I can hope to count. I wonder – what would happen if we each took the time to give thanks to the Lord simply for his grace in our lives? What would be the result if we purposely went to prayer and didn’t ask him for a thing? I know you have a long prayer list just as I do. Understanding that the Lord knows the needs better than you do, why not spend time in prayer today not asking him to do anything about them. I dare you; spend a half hour sometime today simply thanking him, praising him and enjoying his company. I have a feeling you and I will both come away from the experience with a brand new perspective. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Idolatry 101 5/1/13 Scripture for the day: 1 Samuel 4:3-5 And when the people had come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord from Shiloh to us, that when it comes among us it may save us from the hand of our enemies.” So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from there the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, who dwells between the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook. Thought for the day: In the book of Exodus we read that the Lord God told Moses, “Thou shalt make for thyself no graven images.” In other words, the people were not to sit down and try to figure out what God might look like and then form some gold or silver idol to represent the Lord. The danger was of course that they would begin to worship the form of God rather than God Himself. The children of Israel were diligent in their observance of this particular commandment, going so far as not even saying the name of God or writing it down. And they fell into idolatry anyway. Remember the snakes in the wilderness? The people had sinned against God and he’d sent snakes among them. When they cried out to God he’d had Moses construct the bronze snake and put it on a tall pole. If anyone was bitten, all they had to do was look at the bronze snake and they would be made well. Some 400 years or so later the snake had a name and the people bowed down and worshiped the snake. What God had meant for good, what he had meant to point to him, had become an idol. When the Lord instructed Moses concerning the building of the Ark of the Covenant, he was very specific. Moses knew the ark was the place, within the Holy of Holies, that the Spirit of the Lord would rest. He would sit on the mercy seat and bless the people. No one could look upon the ark except those the Lord had designated to take care of it and only at particular times. No one could come near it for fear of being struck down, and certainly no one could touch the Ark of the Covenant for it represented the physical presence of the Lord God among his people. And certainly we can see many instances in which the Ark was taken into battle and the people prevailed. So what happened this time? Why were they defeated? I believe they were defeated by one little word – it. Look again at the verse: “When it comes among us it may save us from our enemies.” The Lord was no longer seen as the Savior of his people; the ark had taken his place in their hearts and minds, just as the bronze snake had done. Therefore, they were defeated. And how does this obscure bit of Jewish history impact our lives today? The truth is we’re as apt to replace God with the things of God, the symbols of his presence, as the children of Israel were. Take for instance the Bible. How many times have you heard someone describe the Bible as the truth? Now don’t misunderstand; I love the Word of God and would be devastated if I couldn’t spend time there every day. I believe it to be the inspired Word of God and believe everything in it, but the Bible isn’t the truth; (Please! Please! Please! Don’t take this out of context and tell everyone Bill said the Bible isn’t true) the Bible points to the truth. Jesus said, “I am the truth…” and the Bible points to Jesus. The church isn’t the way. Jesus is the way and the church is here to point to the Way. The sacraments, Baptism and Communion, are not life. Jesus is life and they help point the way to the Life. There is great danger in taking our eyes off the Way, the Truth and the Life, even for a moment. As important as all those other things may be, and as helpful as they are in directing the path we take, they cannot be allowed to replace the One to whom they direct our attention and to whom belongs our worship and praise. The doctrines upon which we build our understanding of our faith are vitally important. The cause of Christ is, or ought to be, of great importance in our lives. Missions, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, prayer, and so many other aspects of our life in the kingdom all demand and deserve our attention. But none of them can be allowed to take precedence over the One to whom they point. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The most dangerous end 4/30/13
Scripture for the day: 1 Peter 5:6-9 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. Thought for the day: I enjoy those nature shows that come on TV every so often; most generally on some cable or satellite channel you can only get by paying more for TV than for your mortgage. I don’t pay those prices (for anything) so I don’t see as many of those shows as I’d like, but I remember a man named Marlin Perkins who hosted a show called “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.” Every week Marlin would take us to some remote place on earth and show us some exotic, usually dangerous, creature that he was going to capture for the good of all mankind. Wild Kingdom was pretty tame compared to the Crocodile Hunter from Australia and many others on the airwaves today. I loved to watch the Crocodile Hunter until he got stung by one of his deadly friends and died. I especially liked the way he would find one of the world’s deadliest snakes but beating about the bushes with a stick until the thing came slithering out into the open. Then Steve Irwin would reach down and pick it up by the tail. By the tail! That’s the most dangerous end! Didn’t the man know anything at all about snakes? And by the way, if we’re honest, the thought goes through our minds as Marlin Perkins is wrestling with a fifteen foot alligator, “I wonder if someone will get bit today. Wouldn’t that be cool?” But that’s not really what I wanted to talk about. You see, one of the other lessons we can learn from the nature shows is how one animal gets to be lunch for another. Take the mighty king of the jungle, the lion, for instance. I’ve never seen a lion look at those around him and say something like, “You know, today I’m going for broke. You see that big, fat, healthy looking wilderbeast over there, the one with the long sharp horns? I’m takin’ him down today.” The lion never even thinks such thoughts. And why not? Because he’s afraid of the big healthy wilderbeast with the long sharp horns. He knows that particular animal can inflict some real damage upon his person should he confront him directly, and besides, the big healthy ones can almost certainly outrun him. No, the mighty lion isn’t going to attack those he knows he can never defeat; he’s going to watch carefully for the one in the herd who is weak, unable to move quickly and can be separated from the rest most easily. (which by the way may be where we get the true statement, “When the antelope wakes up in the morning, he doesn’t have to be faster than the Cheetah; he only has to be faster than one other antelope”). Our old enemy, the devil, is much like the lion waiting and watching at the edge of the herd. He isn’t looking to see who’s the biggest or the fastest or the most healthy; he’s watching to see who’s the weakest, the slowest or who has drifted from the protection of the herd. Those who only spend time with the Bible and the God of the Bible on Sunday are most vulnerable. They tend to be weaker or they allow themselves to drift into a place where the “roaring lion” can attack. Those who have no part in the direction the herd is going, tend to find themselves open to attack as well. The best protection we have is the Word of God. That, along with time spent with the Lord in prayer and fellowship with other members of the “herd” will keep the lion at bay. And there’s nothing I want to see any more than that old lion, Satan, starving for lack of prey. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Building bridges 4/29/13
Scripture for the day: Luke 6:35-38 Love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 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.” Thought for the day: Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence. One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days work" he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?" "Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor, in fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence -- an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow." The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you." The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge -- a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work handrails and all -- and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. "You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done." The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in the middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother. "I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but, I have many more bridges to build." I wonder how many fences have been built over the years because of pride. I wonder how many bridges could have been built if one or the other of those involved in a dispute could have seen the damage those fences caused. I wonder how many of us would rather hold on to our pride, our sense of justice, our desire for revenge, rather than mend a broken relationship. I wonder. Jacob in the Old Testament cheated and lied and stole everything worthwhile that his brother Esau had. I’ll grant you that Esau was guilty of not putting the proper amount of importance on his birthright and his father’s blessing, but Jacob was the real culprit and Esau was justifiably angry with him; angry enough to kill. Now when Jacob had been gone from his homeland some thirty years or so, the Lord led him back – the last place Jacob wanted to go. He just knew Esau was waiting to kill him the moment he crossed the line into the Promised Land. Remember what Jacob did? He sent gifts of camels, sheep, goats, and whatever else he thought might appease the anger of his brother. He put his wives and children out in front of him, perhaps hoping Esau might have mercy on him when he saw how many children he had to take feed and clothe. All of these things Esau passed by with barely a glance. He made straight for his brother. And when he got to the place where Jacob was walking alone, limping from his encounter with the angel of the Lord the night before, he dismounted his horse and threw his arms around the brother he’d spent so much time hating. Can you imagine the relief Jacob must have felt in that moment? I wonder how many relationships remain estranged out of fear. I wonder how many could be reconciled if one or the other of the injured parties would simply reach out to the other. I wonder if we can even begin to understand what Jesus meant when he said, Love your enemies, and do good to them?” I wonder. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- He trusts me 4/26/13
Scripture for the day: 1 Thessalonians 2:4 But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. Thought for the day: I have a friend who has lied to me consistently ever since I’ve known him. Oh, I don’t think he’s intentionally set out to deceive me, but his nature is such that he’s simply more prone to lie than to tell the truth, even when the truth would be more beneficial to him. Have you ever met someone like that? Perhaps you already know someone like that. I want desperately to trust my friend and so I keep taking him at his word, knowing all the while that he will almost certainly disappoint me again. I ask if it’s raining outside and he tells me it is. I grab my raincoat and an umbrella out of the closet and open the door only to be greeted with dazzling sunlight streaming in. I ask him what he’s been up to recently and he tells me some story about how hard he’s working, how much he’s accomplishing, and how faithful he’s been to the cause we’re both involved with. I look at his records and discover he’s not done half what he’s told me he’s done. But I trust him. This same friend, let’s call him Horace, has let me down more times than I can remember. He told me once that he’d do whatever I needed. Taking him at his word, I asked him to mow the lawn while I took care of business in town. The lawn grew up over the summer into a hay field and may never be the same because of the way it’s been neglected. Horace apologized and told me how busy he’d gotten so lawn care had taken a back seat. I think he really meant it. I asked Horace to help me advertise my company and he promised to be diligent in getting articles to the newspaper, developing a web site, handing out flyers to his neighbors and otherwise encouraging everyone he met to buy into our product. He was provided with all the materials he would need to get the job done and I went about my business developing our product in other states and even overseas. I dropped in on Horace not long after he’d accepted responsibility for product promotion in his area, just to see how he was doing and to offer whatever encouragement I could. He was in a hammock in the back yard. As I approached he jumped up, spilling his iced tea and knocking over the stack of flyers piled high on a nearby patio table. “Aren’t these the flyers you said you’d distribute last month?” I asked. “Well, yes they are,” he replied, “but you see, I’ve been so busy with other things. My wife needed me to fix some things around the house, my kids are involved in seven different sports, and the dog has been really sick. Why, today’s the first day I’ve been able to lie in the shade and relax for weeks. But don’t you worry Bill, I’ll get to them this week; I promise. I trust Horace. He has a good heart and I know he means well. He hasn’t been particularly honest with me and has often failed me when I needed him to be there, but I trust him all the same. He’ll get better with time (though I think he should have been much further ahead than he is by now). And besides, how will he ever learn to be trustworthy if I don’t continue to give him the chance to prove himself? What do you think of Horace? Would you continue to trust him? How many times would you have to catch him in a lie before you refused to take him at his word? How many unfinished projects would there have to be in his past before you stopped trusting him with another? Think about that for a moment. Got the answer in your mind? Now you know just a bit about how Jesus must feel. I’ve lied to him time after time. I haven’t always meant to but I’ve done it anyway. The number of times I’ve let him down after promising, “I’ll follow you anywhere,” is almost beyond our ability to count. And when I’ve come back to him, sorrowful for not having lived up to my promises, he’s once again forgiven me and allowed me one more chance. Think deeply on this truth: Jesus trusts me. Say it over again in your mind: Jesus trusts me. Now, how many times have you given him cause to stop trusting you? How many times have you come up short? And yet, he still trusts you and me. How brave is our God! The disciples failed him time after time and yet, when they’d learned to trust him, he sent them out two by two to preach the gospel. They let him down, they lied to him, and they spent their time trying to promote themselves in his sight. And when he returned to the Father, he left these same men in charge of his entire purpose on earth; reconciliation of the lost to the kingdom. What a brave God we serve who would continue to trust us with so great a task. Lord, find me faithful to honor the trust you have displayed toward me. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Moving mulberry trees 4/24/13
Scripture for the day: Luke 17:5,6 And the apostles said to the Lord, "increase our faith." So the Lord said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea' and it would obey you." Thought for the day: Wow! If that's all it takes to perform miracles like Jesus is talking about here, how little faith I must have. Or do I lack real faith? Is this really what Jesus was talking about, moving mulberry trees? Or did He have something else in mind? Let's think about it for a moment. Jesus never moved any mulberry trees and He certainly had the power to do so. He never used the faith He had to do anything other than the Father's will for His life. It isn't about doing spectacular things; it's about doing God things, about trusting God; something we will find impossible to do until we've had a close encounter with the Son. Faith is what makes me look at things from a different perspective than I normally would. Faith is what allows me to look at that congregation of 10 or 12 people who meet regularly for prayer and worship, who have few, if any, of the resources the world considers vital for church growth, and who seem to be barely holding on let alone making any real difference, and see her as an indispensable instrument of God in the community of which she is a part. Faith makes no sense whatsoever. Anything done in faith is done contrary to what common sense and logical thinking would have me do - unless I've met Jesus and He's "increased my faith." A man is touched in his heart and hears the voice of God calling him to leave the home he's always known and find a place of service in a foreign land. Everything in him rebels against the notion; it doesn't make any sense. His friends and family shake their heads in disbelief as he packs his bags and prepares to leave; the whole notion seems nonsensical to them as well. But faith sees clearly that the only place left on earth for him to reside is where God has sent him. That's faith and it can only come from a revelation of Jesus Christ. And the revelation can only come from a relationship. The question for us today is whether or not we're able to see with the eyes of faith when the circumstances of life confront us. Have we seen Jesus and do we have a clear enough view of Him to sustain us in whatever circumstances we find ourselves? The answer to that question is one that will determine our course of action from this moment on. Look around at all the mulberry trees surrounding you. There may be so many they seem like an impenetrable forest. The shovel you’ve been using to try to move them has long since worn out and the handle is broken in three places. There is only one thing that will move those trees out of your path so you can move on – faith. You don’t have to dig; you only have to believe and the Lord Jesus says they will move. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Learning the lesson - or not! 4/23/13
Scripture for the day: Judges 2:10-13 After that generation died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight and served the images of Baal. They abandoned the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They went after other gods, worshiping the gods of the people around them. And they angered the Lord. They abandoned the Lord to serve Baal and the images of Ashtoreth. Thought for the day: And so it went; the Lord abandoned the children of Israel to their just rewards. They were oppressed by those around them, their crops and other possessions were stolen or destroyed, and they lived in fear of their enemies each and every day. But they learned their lesson and quickly abandoned their evil ways, right? I think not. The Bible says they refused to listen to the judges he sent to them but kept on with their headlong drive toward extinction. Keep reading in the book of the Judges. In chapter 2 they are delivered after crying out to the Lord in desperation. In chapter three they are once again in trouble because they abandoned the Lord. He delivered them and they immediately turned their backs again – still in chapter three. Chapter four relates another incident where the children of Israel sinned and God let them suffer the consequences. Once again he delivered them. Chapter 6, chapter 8, chapter 10, chapter 13 and on and on the cycle went. One would think they might have learned the lesson after a certain number of generations had passed. But no! They just kept on sliding away from the truth. And oh how like the Israelites we are today! (I could go into a long and detailed tirade about how far our country has fallen from its Judeo-Christian roots and lament the deplorable state of affairs in which we find ourselves today because we’ve abandoned those roots, but I’ll refrain in the interest of maintaining my sanity and yours). The sad truth is that we as human beings, possessed of a fallen nature, will inevitably move away from the God we claim to love so deeply if we’re left to our own devices. That’s why the writer to the Hebrews said, “Therefore we must give more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away,” and “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Our tendency to drift is the reason Jesus said, “Watch and pray, therefore, lest you fall into temptation.” Our tendency to drift is why Paul urged his churches to “make your election sure.” Have you ever watched someone paddling a canoe or a kayak through a stretch of rapids in a river? Perhaps you’ve done that yourself; I have many times and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience every time. Whether you’ve actually participated or have simply been a spectator, have you noticed the way the person paddles furiously even as the force of the water carries the canoe downstream? Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to simply get into the current and just hang on for the ride? We might think so but there’s a good reason why the wise canoeist paddles so hard going through the rapids – rocks. There are often large, menacing, dangerous rocks ahead that must be avoided if we don’t want to be wet or worse. The only way to avoid those rocks is to steer around them. The only way to steer around them is to be going just slightly faster than the current. If we drift we are out of control and in danger of whatever lies in our path. The same is true in the spiritual realm. If we allow ourselves to drift spiritually, we can make no corrections to the direction we’re going and we will inevitably run up against the rocks of temptation, false doctrine, apathy, and a thousand other hazards. Keep paddling my friends! You’ll make it if you do. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- My kind of church 4/22/13
Scripture for the day: Revelation 3:14-20 And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Thought for the day: First of all, I want you to know that I’m happy right here where God has placed us. Within the past year the Lord moved my wife and I from the church in which we’d become severely settled and led us to begin over again with a much smaller congregation. Since then the church we left has been growing in ways she would not have had we remained there, and for that we praise the Lord above. At the same time, the church to which he’s led us is also experiencing a spiritual renewal and is also growing and reaching the communities that surround us – a win win situation if ever there was one. Having said that, I was recently contacted by a pulpit committee that was interested in my ministry. Though I’m very content to remain here, I thought it best to at least hear what they had to say. I met with Chairman of the Disenchanted, Bro Tepid. He described his church, the First Lukewarm Church of the Apathetic. “Nothing too boring,” he said. “Nothing too exciting; we want it to fit into our American Culture Christianity. No songs too slow; no songs too fast. Nothing from the ancient songs and nothing after the 70’s. Nothing ever challenging. We want encouragement and comfort.” He sang to me the Churches Theme Song.
“Sitting on the premises of Christ our friend. Through eternal ages let the service end. Glutted to the highest we will moan and sing. Sitting on the premises and dead. Sitting on the premises, sitting on the premises, Sitting on the premises of Christ our servant. Sitting on the premises, sitting on the premises, We’re sitting on the premises and dead.”
He proudly described the Church as irresolute and uncommitted. He introduced to me the other committee members; Bobby Bored and Connie Cool. He described the great teachings the women received who participated in the Church’s Women’s Indifference Society. There seemed to be great growth in one class; The Mellow Sunday School Class. They were excited about an upcoming event; The Men’s Worldly and Wise Conference. A series of revival messages was scheduled to be led by The Reverend Marvin Mundane. The church had started the Spiritless Seniors group who were going to focus on traveling to entertainment locations like Branson Missouri and Las Vegas. This would bring the Church back into balance because of the growing numbers and influence of the Unresponsive Youth Program. They were looking for a pastor who could scratch their ears, stir their emotions, help their self-esteem, complement their current spiritual condition and validate their unchanging ministries and priorities. On the bright side, they were going to pay well and the benefits were killer. There was only one problem – that pig don’t fly! Give me a Smyrnan church, one that is holding fast to sound doctrine and rejoicing even in the midst of suffering. Let me lit in a Philadelphian church where the people are holding forth the truth of the Word and standing fast in the midst of persecution, ridicule and hardships. You can keep your megachurch with all her state-of-the-art electronics and glitter-filled programs. Give me a Berean church where the saints are diligently searching the scriptures and allowing the truths found there to impact, change and mold their lives in the living image of Jesus Christ. I pray you are a part of that kind of church. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Just a nibble 4/19/13
Scripture for the day: Joshua 23:11-13 So be very careful to love the Lord your God. “But if you turn away from him and cling to the customs of the survivors of these nations remaining among you, and if you intermarry with them, then know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive them out of your land. Instead, they will be a snare and a trap to you, a whip for your backs and thorny brambles in your eyes, and you will vanish from this good land the Lord your God has given you. (NLT) Thought for the day: Joshua is dying and he knows it. He is old and the years of desert wanderings and battles fought and won have taken their toll. Beginning in Joshua we read the farewell speech he made to the children of Israel as he relinquished the position the Lord had given him so many years and so many battles before. And what is the first thing Joshua tells those listening to his words? “God has brought you out of slavery and is making of you a powerful and holy nation. He has given you this land and you must take it for yourselves and keep the land pure and holy as is befitting God’s chosen people.” Good enough; but what does that have to do with me living my life in the little town of Brunswick Maine, or you where you are today? Some have tried to emulate our Amish brothers and sisters, moving to some remote location, turning their back on everything that would remind them of the outside world or tempt them to compromise their faith. With all due deference to the Amish (who have chosen to remain apart from society at large primarily on social grounds and not religious), we call this attempt to avoid all temptation by physically removing ourselves from society monasticism. They tried that approach in the Middle Ages and quickly discovered that when they shut the doors to the monastery they’d constructed high on a mountain somewhere, the sin they thought they could avoid was with them within the cloistered walls. Others have tried to make sure the only people they associated with were those of a like faith. Many cannot name five non-Christian people they could call friend. Some have gone so far as to limit those associations to those within their own church. After all, “What has righteousness to do with unrighteousness?” Didn’t Paul say, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers?” Monasticism by any other name is still the same. But what do these words of Joshua tell us? What can we really glean from this bit of scripture? First, there is no escape from the world. He knew the people of Israel would be living among, and surrounded by, those whom the Lord had told them not to associate with. His answer for this was: “Have nothing to do with them.” In the same way, you and I are surrounded by the very sins we’ve abandoned in coming to Christ. Just because we’ve turned our backs on them doesn’t mean they’ve given up and gone away. Satan is alive and well on planet Earth. The Lord said through Joshua, “You must not compromise with those things that would lead you back into the sin of which I have delivered you. If you do you’ll end up completely immersed in them again and will be no better off than before you were delivered.” I have a cartoon I clipped out of a newspaper and it shows two fish gazing longingly at a wiggling worm suspended on a very obvious hook. The small fish says to the bigger, certainly wiser one, “Just a nibble; that’s all. I’m not saying we should take the whole thing.” Just a little sin corrupts the whole person. Just a nibble on the bait Satan dangles in front of us is enough to get us hooked. And once we’re hooked the likelihood of escape is slim at best. Look again at what Joshua reminded the people. “If you allow yourself to compromise, even in the smallest areas, with sin, it will become a snare that will entangle you in such a way as you will not be able to escape. Sin will become a thorn in your side to torment you and a whip across your back to punish you for your foolishness. Eventually, if you do not deal with the sin, you will “vanish from the land of Promise” and your relationship with the God who brought you out of the Egypt of sin will be broken.” And “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Isn’t that exactly what Joshua said to the people? You will not escape the wrath of God if you compromise at any point with the sin that “so easily entangles.” Church – nothing has changed in all the thousands of years since Joshua went to be with his Lord. God has called us to a life of no compromise. Anything short of that, no matter the motivation, is no better than a life with Him at all. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and…. Go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- It wasn't me! 4/18/13
Scripture for the day: James 1:12-15 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Thought for the day: My grandson and I watched a movie not too long ago about a bumbling astronaut on the first manned mission to Mars. I don’t remember the name of the film but it was so dumb it was funny – I think that was the whole point. At any rate, every time the man caused an accident, which was every other scene at least, as soon as those in charge of the mission how obvious his part in the mishap – “It wasn’t me!” you’d have to watch the movie to really understand the humor of it all. You’d also probably need a seriously warped sense of humor and about an hour and a half you could afford to waste. Even the dumbest movies can teach us something (other than the importance of not wasting that kind of time). I wondered as I watched our hero consistently denying responsibility for even the most minor mishaps how like our society that is. How many times have we tried to deflect responsibility from ourselves and our own choices to society, or our families or our teachers or the government? I’m reminded of a song from the sixties (perhaps the generation that brought the art of buck-passing to its greatest heights) that I think epitomizes the idea that it’s not my fault. “I went to my psychiatrist to be psychoanalyzed To find out why I killed the cat and blackened my husband’s eyes. He laid me on a downy couch to see what he could find, And here is what he dredged up from my subconscious mind; When I was one, my mommy hid my dolly in a trunk, And so it follows naturally that I am always drunk. When I was two, I saw my father kiss the maid one day, And that is why I suffer now from kleptomania. At three, I had the feeling of ambivalence toward my brothers, And so it follows naturally I poison all my lovers. But I am happy; now I’ve learned the lesson this has taught; That everything I do that’s wrong is someone else’s fault.”1
Adam had a choice. Do did Eve. Cain had a choice. Pharaoh, Ahab, Herod, Pilot, and even Judas all had choices. They all knew right from wrong and they all, at one time or another chose wrong. James put all those encounters in perfect context when he said, “Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires. Make no mistake about it; no matter the depth of depravity any of us might have experienced while growing up, we still have choices. Does our background influence us? Absolutely. Do our past experiences color the way we look at the world and how we react to that world? Without a doubt. Do those past experiences control how we react today the choices we make? Only if we allow them to. We are still able, regardless of background or circumstances, to make the right choice. There are too many examples of those who have for us to legitimately claim otherwise. Is it easy? Certainly not, but that’s why the Lord has put us in the family of God; that’s why he’s surrounded us with others who can help us look to him and make the right choices. That’s why Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve…” It’s why Moses said, “I set before you today life and death; therefore choose life.” It’s why Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” It’s why Paul said, “Reckon yourselves therefore dead to sin and alive to Christ.” Now go take on your world. - Bill 1. The psychiatrist’s folksong, Anna Russell P.S. – I don’t know what you’ll do in response to today’s devotional but I know this: It’s not my fault!
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- If only ... but then... 4/17/13
Scripture for the day: Luke 19:41-42 Now as He drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” Thought for the day: If I’d only known in the early to mid 1970’s that a tiny out-of-someone’s-garage business would become Microsoft, I could have been a multi-millionaire by now; but then I wouldn’t have had some of the amazing experiences that have come my way. If only I’d known who was going to win the race I’d have been able to relax for a bit longer; but then I’d have missed the excitement of watching as the race developed and the winner was finally decided in the last few seconds. If only I’d realized how peaceful early retirement could be; but then I wouldn’t have met some of the interesting (and challenging) people I’ve come to know and cared deeply about. And the list goes on and on, doesn’t it? So often we live our lives in the neighboring kingdoms of “If Only” and “But then.” Let’s be honest, we have our place of residence in the kingdom of If Only and rarely visit But Then. And the people in today’s scripture seem never to have visited that place at all. In fact, they were completely unaware that they even lived in the land of If Only. They thought they lived in a place called Doin’ Alright, and never saw the need to move. “If only you had known,” said Jesus, as he gazed out over the city with tear-filled eyes. A funny story tells about three high school seniors who went to New York for their senior trip. When they arrived in the city, they went immediately to one of the finest hotels and registered for a room. They were assigned a room on the 30th floor. After settling in, they decided to go see the sights. They toured Manhattan, the Empire State Building, Wall Street and the Statue of Liberty. They finally returned to their hotel utterly exhausted. As they re-entered the lobby to their building and said hello to the desk clerk, he said, "I am sorry, the elevators are not running." He told them that they could either wait or use the stairway. The thought of a soft bed was irresistible, so they decided to climb the stairs -- all thirty stories. One of the boys had an idea. "On the way up, each of us will tell the funniest story we know for ten flights of stairs," he suggested. The other two agreed and started to climb. When they reached the tenth floor, they were still going strong. By the twentieth floor, their legs were rubber and they panted for breath. They looked at one another and said, “If only we’d known, perhaps we could have gotten a room a little closer to the street. If only we’d known, we could have spent less time running around the city and wouldn’t have come back exhausted; then we’d have had more energy for this climb.” And on and on the complaints went, getting more desperate with each floor they climbed. The steps grew harder to climb and the one whose turn it was to tell a funny story said, "I'm sorry; I'm just too tired to talk." They trudged on in silence. When they reached the 29th floor, one of them began to laugh. He sat down on the steps and laughed hysterically. Finally, he said to his amazed companions, "I just thought of the funniest thing that could ever happen." "What is it?" they asked. He said, "We left the key in the lobby." How many “if only’s” can you think of in your life? Why do you suppose you remember them? They are not meant to be a source of condemnation. Rather, the “if only’s” of our lives are meant to be a reminder to take the room key with us. Now go take on your world. - Bill
there was yet another bombing, this time in Boston Massachusetts, and the end of the Marathon. Senseless, to say the least. You just have to shake your head and wonder what compels someone to do something so horrendous? Whatever the reason, there is no excuse for that kind of violence. Our prayers go out to those victimized by those who have embraced violence as some sort of “solution” to whatever grievance they may have. I’m always brought back to the admonition of God’s Word: “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” Our response should be, in my not-so-humble opinion, to put another log on the fire. Scripture for the day: Leviticus 6:12-13 Meanwhile, the fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must never go out. Each morning the priest will add fresh wood to the fire and arrange the daily whole burnt offering on it. He must then burn the fat of the peace offerings on top of this daily whole burnt offering. Remember, the fire must be kept burning on the altar at all times. It must never go out. Thought for the day: From time to time I assign myself the task of reading through those less than exciting parts of God's Word simply because they are there and to neglect them completely can potentially rob us of some important insights the Lord wants to give us. I must admit I'm often a bit relieved when the task has been completed; let's face it, unless you happen to be able to trace your ancestry to one of the tribes of Israel, those genealogies can get pretty dry. And all those building plans, regulations for the priests and requirements for daily and special offerings can get downright hard to ingest. But they're important as a framework for the New Testament and all that Jesus did in coming as the Messiah. I remember as a child (yes, I can still remember back that far, and yes we had electricity even then), one of my chores was to help provide wood for the furnace. We lived in a gigantic old farmhouse situated on 125 acres of land, most of it wooded. All summer my dad would cut trees for firewood. After hauling them to the shed, which was attached to the house, he'd saw them up to stove length 'chunks' and split them to fit in the furnace. Our job, my brothers and I, was to put the wood in the shed to dry for the next winter. Then in the winter we would move a day's worth of wood from the shed to the cellar by the furnace so the fire could be kept burning day and night. To us that chore seemed like a useless boring task that just had to be done because Dad said so. Only later did I realize the importance of our part in the whole process. You see, the fire had to be kept burning in the furnace or the whole house would lose its heat. If the fire was allowed to die out, or even to die down too much, the cold outside began to creep through the walls of the house, first simply making those inside uncomfortable, then becoming dangerous. If the fire we neglected for too long a time, water pipes would begin to freeze cutting off life-giving nourishment. If the fire wasn't rekindled, by the next morning those who lived there would almost certainly be dead; frozen in their comfortable beds because there could be no heat without the fire in the furnace. Whenever I come across this sort of passage in God's Word I'm always taken back to those days when I labored to do my part to keep the fire burning, and I thank God there was fuel, there was someone who understood the value of the fire, and, to the best of my recollection, the fire never went out. Then I'm reminded of the spiritual application for such an example. There's fuel the Lord has provided to keep the fire of His presence hot in our lives. We have His word to give us light, His Holy Spirit to breathe new life into our hearts. We have the avenue of prayer to simply spend time near the source of warmth. And we have others of like faith to encourage us was we tend the fire of faith in our lives. How's the fire in your soul? Is it burning hot because you've consistently kept the fuel in place and tended it as needed? Has it died down somewhat from neglect? Perhaps the cold frost of doubt has crept in because the fire that once burned brightly has died to a few glowing embers. Oh, my friends, don't let the fire go out completely for then the icy winds of unbelief will surely bring death to those who've not tended the fire of their faith. Keep the fire burning! It must never be allowed to go out. Tend it well for it is your life in the Lord. Now go take on your world. - Bill ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- When all means all 4/15/13
Scripture for the day: Deuteronomy 10:12-13 And now, Israel(church, Christian) what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good? Thought for the day: Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation. However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her. The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen. The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan’s response, "I will do it!" So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard. He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece. What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage – and their weapons of battle. Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they would have to give up their commitment to bloodshed. They could not be killers and church members too. After a hasty round of diplomacy, the problem was solved quite simply. As the words were spoken and the priests began to baptize them, each soldier reached to his side and withdrew his sword. Lifting it high overhead, every soldier was totally immersed-everything baptized except his fighting arm and sword. A true story. And one that ought to cause us to stop and think about our own “baptism” into the Lord. How many have committed themselves fully and without reservation to the Lord Jesus Christ, except for that fighting arm? Except for that pocketbook? Except for that one tiny indulgence? Except for ___________________ (you fill in the blank). How many have enlisted in the service of the King except for that one small, insignificant area reserved for self? Far too many of us I’m afraid. God hasn’t asked us to be perfect (at least not absolutely perfect). He hasn’t asked us to become super-spiritual Christians who never struggle with temptation. He hasn’t asked us to become so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good. He has asked, demanded really, that when we submit ourselves to him, we do so completely and without reservation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what “with all your hear and with all your mind and with all your strength” means? What a different kingdom this would be if all God’s people included their “fighting arm” in their act of baptism. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Little Jesus grew up 4/12/13Scripture for the day: Ephesians 4:11-15 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (NLT) Thought for the day: So often we look at these verses and we tend to think on the responsibilities of those who teach. It’s the responsibility of the prophet, evangelist and pastors and teachers to be out in the front, providing all God’s people need to be fully equipped in their walk with him. True enough; but it’s the responsibility of the believer to not only take in what’s being provided but to make application of these truths to daily life – to grow up. Growing older is not the same a growing up. Far too many grow older and remain the same petulant, immature, childish people they were as children. And for that, at least in the kingdom of God, there is no excuse. Jesus provides us with the example we need, even in this (not surprised, are you?). Luke tells us: “When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:39, 40 - NIV). Now we might be tempted to say, “Of course he did; he was God,” but we must remember that he was also a little boy who lived and grew in the same world we endure. Again Luke tells us, after his parents lost him and finally found him in the temple, “After Jesus' parents got lost and left Him in the Temple when He was twelve, we read: "Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:51,52). He grew in wisdom, meaning that he learned to apply those things he was being taught. And he grew in favor with God and men, meaning he was well respected in his community. Now, what does that mean for you and me? The New Testament is practically obsessed with growing up. This letter to the Ephesians is just one example of the admonitions for us to grow up into the Lord. Jesus grew, as we also must, in wisdom. He was not just a divine data depository, smart. He was "filled with wisdom." He sat listening to the teachers, asking them questions - ones that astonished all who heard Him. His questions revealed such insight that they were motivated to ask His take on Scripture. Are you learning the Bible, moving past VBS-level insights? Does anyone look to you for godly insight? Spiritual counterfeits will continue to freely fleece the flock with their folly as long as believers stay ignorant and immature. Are you growing in true wisdom? When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his famous “I have a dream” speech, he laid out a vision of an America where his children would “be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” His dream has not yet become a reality e church but, because the dream has been maintained by those who have followed in his footsteps, great strides have been made. I too have a dream. I dream of a day when every mature Christian is mentoring a new believer. I dream of a day when the church is alive with mature Christians who can stand for their faith without fear. I dream of a church of interdependent people who rely upon one another for support and help, but who, like adult children, are forging their own way in the world as well. In short, I dream of a church that looks like an extended family, full of brand new babies, little children who are growing in the Lord, adolescent Christians who are discovering who they are in the Lord, and mature believers who are feeding, teaching and helping others to mature in their faith. The dream is real. The vision is real. The work is long and can often be discouraging. But the dream can and will become a reality. We will grow in the Lord. We will become more like Jesus. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I'm so confused! 4/11/13 Scripture for the day: Colossians 3:1-3 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Thought for the day: I don’t Twitter, whatever that is. I’m on Facebook only because I can put these devotions on there and, short of deleting me from their “friends” list, no one can do anything about it. In the interest of complete honesty, I must admit I sometimes get a perverse pleasure from posting a comment I know will upset certain people on there, but that’s another struggle for another time. The more technology advances the less I am inclined to embrace all the new things coming along. Honestly, do you really need a phone that plays music, streams video, sends and receives e-mail, controls the temperature in your bathtub, automatically updates your to-do list, schedules medical appointments with doctors you’ve never met, provides you with a map to destinations you’ve no intention of visiting, and translates everything you say into perfect Klingon? The only thing your phone doesn’t do, it seems, is make phone calls. I remember a time when a person could run an entire manufacturing business without a Blackberry. Facebook wasn’t the only, or even the best, way to communicate with your friends. A friend said his children coerced him into signing up for Twitter so they and the grandchildren could keep in touch at all times. He said, “How bad could it be if you’re limited to just 140 characters?” Then they signed him in to Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix and something that sends every message to his cell phone and every other program within the texting world. It’s all getting way out of control. I don’t know about you but I’m not sure I want to live like this. I have a GPS on my dash. It looks pretty cool sitting there but I’m not sure it’s very useful. I enter an address where I want to go and for the entire trip there’s an annoying Australian guy in there who keeps saying “re-cal-cu-la-ting” every five minutes. Really, what good is that to me? Generally speaking, if I’m lost I can call my wife and tell her the names of the cross streets near me and she can give me the directions I need. She speaks in a tone almost as annoying as the Australian guy but at least I know she loves me. And the Bluetooth (most of which are not blue); really, do we need to walk around our planet with a device sticking out of our ear that makes us look like Lt. Uhura from Star Trek? Does everyone in line at the grocery store really need to hear our side of the conversation when we’ve just called home to find out what size Depends we need to buy? The whole technology thing is just getting to be too much. There was a time when, if the phone rang you had to count the number of long and short rings to see if it was for you or for one of the nine other homes on your party line. Now you have to listen very carefully for the ringing of the cordless phone so you can figure out which sofa cushion to move to hopefully find it before the answering machine comes on. Even at the grocery store things get confusing today. Someone gave me some of those reusable bags to carry groceries in. I discovered they are great for sorting tools and storing electrical or plumbing supplies in the garage. Now when I go to the store they always ask, “Paper or plastic?” I used to ponder that question for a few minutes but now just look at the clerk and say, “It doesn’t matter to me; I’m bi-sacksual.” Then it’s their turn to look confused. When Jesus said, “Store up treasures in heaven,” he wasn’t speaking of satellites, satellite dishes or multi-level uplinks with burst technology. He was talking about keeping it all very simple so that we could focus on what’s truly important. I wonder sometimes if the Amish don’t have something going for them that we’ve lost in our mad rush to become the most technologically advanced people on our block. I don’t want to go back to the times of “no phones, no light, no motorcars, not a single luxury,” to coin a phrase; at the same time, there is something to be said for owning a phone, cellular or otherwise, that simply makes phone calls. Please don’t misunderstand; there’s nothing wrong with technology in and of itself; it’s just that I fear we’ve become so caught up with the fascination of it all that we’ve begun to allow the servant to become the master. Now go take on your world. - Bill
Scripture for the day: John 8:34-36 “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free." Thought for the day: Today when I came into the office I immediately went to Pandora.com on the computer. For those of you who don’t know what Pandora is, it’s a website that contains thousands of songs that you can play by category. It’s free (and free is a good price) and you can choose the genre of music that appeals to you, hit play and the music will continue until you tell it to stop. Anyway, one of the artists I chose to play is Lynda Randle, whose voice is simply amazing in my not-so-humble opinion. The first song this morning was called “I’m Free.” If you want to be truly blessed, go to You-tube and listen to Lynda Randle sing this song. The words are as follows:
So long, I searched for life's meaning- enslaved by the world and my greed- Then the door of my prison was opened by love- for the ransom was paid- I was free!
I am free from the guilt that I carried- from the dull empty life- I'm set free- For when I met Jesus he made me complete, he forgot the foolish child I used to be.
I'm free from the fear of tomorrow- I'm free from the guilt of my past! I've traded my shackles for a glorious song- I'm free- Praise the Lord, free at last!
I wonder how many who call themselves by the name of Christ can actually identify with those words this morning? Seriously; we in the church seem to deal with bondage of one kind or another every day, either something that’s holding us in its death grip or something that is disabling a fellow believer. And the Bible tells me our lives should be lived exceedingly above that level. If the Son has set me free from the bondage of sin, should I not live in that freedom every day? If I am “free indeed” as Jesus has promised, should I be constantly dragging behind me the chains of addiction, depression, discouragement and those “sins that so easily beset us?” I think not; the Bible clearly teaches that when the Son sets me free I am free indeed, completely and unconditionally released from the prison of sin that has held me captive for so long. When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, he did so with the intention that they never would return. When he led them across the Red Sea and then closed the waters over the heads of Pharaoh’s army, he told the children of Israel that those who would drag them back into bondage had been utterly defeated and they would “never see them again.” They were not just free, they were freed indeed! And Jesus said in John 8:32 “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” So often we take that statement to mean that if we study and apply the teachings of the Bible we’ll be free from those things that would defeat us. But later Jesus also said, “I am the truth.” To me that means I’m not looking in the pages of the Bible for the truth of the teachings contained there. I’m looking in those same pages for the truth that is Jesus himself. Knowing Jesus is the truth that sets us free; not simply coming to understand and embrace some abstract concept. Could it be then, that if we’re not free; if we don’t feel free in our hearts, if we’re not free from the bondage of habits and compulsions that have oppressed us all our lives, that we perhaps don’t know Jesus in the way we should? Could it be that we’ve allowed our struggles to become the focus of our lives rather than looking beyond them to the One who can and wants to heal? Perhaps I’m just thinking out loud and there’s more to it than simply believing in the One who has promised to heal and deliver. Perhaps simple trust in his ability and willingness to set us free from every sin that threatens to entangle us and hold us back isn’t enough. Perhaps we really do need Jesus and …. But I don’t think so! You have been set free from your bondage to sin. You have been adopted into the family of God. You are, according to the Word of God, a joint-heir with Jesus and a brother or sister of the Christ. Be free my friend, and…. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Cause for rejoicing 4/9/13
Scripture for the day: Luke 10:17-20 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but £rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” Thought for the day: We still love the show, don’t we? After all these years of studying God’s Word, hammering out our consistent and systematic theologies, and even fighting literal wars over who has the best understanding of the Word of God, we still love the show. We love the limelight, we love the applause, and we love the accolades that are ours whenever “the demons are subject to us.” This was true for the disciples as they returned from their preaching tour and it’s no less true for us today. But look for a moment at what Jesus had to say to them – and to us. He simply told them this: it’s not about how many people you have in the pews of your church, how much you raise to support your ministry, or even how hard you try to be the best you can be; it’s all about how utterly and completely you surrender. I can almost see him glancing over this crowd of 70 and saying, “Do you actually believe the demons were subject to you? They were not; they were subject to me as I worked through you.” Lord save us from our conceited desire to become what we can never be. Oswald Chambers said this about today’s scripture: “The bedrock in Jesus Christ’s kingdom in not sincerity, not deciding for Christ, not a determination to serve Him, but a complete and entire recognition that we cannot begin to do it … the recognition that I have not the power within me to do what my spirit desires.” Jesus said, “Come to me.” He didn’t say, “Decide for me.” The only decision we have to make is the decision to surrender completely and utterly to the control of the Holy Spirit. Rev. A. B. Simpson, a great preacher of the 19th century, put it this way. “A sanctified spirit (one set aside completely for God’s own use) is a dedicated spirit. Its powers of apprehension are dedicated to know God, its will is dedicated to follow God and its trust is focused wholly on God. The Sanctified spirit is dedicated to love God, to enjoy God and to find its satisfaction in Him alone. A dedicated spirit is wholly given to God, to know him, to choose his will, to resemble his character, to trust his word, to love him supremely, to glorify him only, to enjoy him wholly, and to belong to him utterly, unreservedly and forever.” And this is accomplished not through extra effort, more work, greater determination, or a deeper concentration. This complete dedication to our Lord is accomplished through a total and absolute surrender. As I’ve said perhaps too many times; it’s not how hard you try, it’s how completely you surrender that counts. There is a foe of hidden power The Christian may well fear, More subtle far than outward sin, And to the heart more dear. It is the power of selfishness, The proud and willful I, And ere my Lord can reign in me My very self must die.
And as one wise writer said, “Self dies in the last ditch.” We can surrender our families, our careers, our houses and lands, but the last item on our list is always self. Does it matter what you accomplish in this life? If it does then surrender is not complete. Does it matter what others may think of you? If it does then surrender is not complete. Do you worry about where you’re going to live tomorrow or what you may have to eat? If you do then surrender is not complete. Are you trying your very best every day to be a good Christian? If you are then surrender is not complete. Do not rejoice at the great distance the Lord may have brought you in your walk with him; do not rejoice in the numbers of people you may have influenced on his behalf; do not rejoice in the degree of dedication to him you may have exhibited; rather, rejoice that your relationship with him is up to date and that your name is written down in heaven. Rejoice this day that you have so completely surrendered to him that your will is no longer yours, if in fact you have taken that step. Now go take on your world. - Bill
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Losing my marbles 4/8/13
Scripture for the day: Psalm 90:10-12 The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Thought for the day: The story goes like this: The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings (or choose your own day of the week if you like). Perhaps it’s the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it’s the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable. A few weeks ago, a man was shuffling toward the back room with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. He turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on his ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. As he sought the right frequency, he came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles". The man was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. "Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughter’s dance recital." He continued, "Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities." And that’s when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles." "You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years." "Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part." "It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the radio shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away." "I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight." "Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the last marble out of the jar.” Let me ask you a question: how many marbles do you have left? Have you lost all yours yet? Count your days my friend. How many do you have left to be effective for God? How many do you have left to spend with people you really care about? How many are there in the jar that can be used to make a difference? How many days are left for you to simply enjoy the life God has given you? Now go take on your world. - Bill -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What can I do? 4/5/13
Scripture for the day: Exodus 4:13 But Moses again pleaded, "Lord, please! Send someone else." Thought for the day: Whenever I read again, for the first time, the exchange between Moses and the Lord, regarding his call to become the prophet/leader for the children of Israel, one word comes to my mind - amateur! Moses had 80 years to come up with all his excuses why he couldn't do what the Lord was calling him to and those flimsy reasons were all he could find; pathetic! I was only in my thirties when God called me to preach and I managed to come up with much better excuses than Moses gave, and if I remember correctly, I had more of them. Yes, I have to admit I got some of my excuses from reading about Moses, but I certainly added to his paltry list; and I was more elaborate in mine as well. I'm afraid of people. There is no way on earth I could ever stand in front of more than three people and speak. I have a wife and two children to support; and the children are teenagers; you think that's cheap? I'm past the prime learning age; no one could be expected to return to college at my age. And on and on I went until, like Moses, I ran out of excuses. Finally I got to the place that I truly believed if I didn't get off my seat and into the street, I'd be in danger of losing my relationship with the very God who had saved me and was now calling me. But when I did, I discovered that following God is probably the strangest and wildest ride of a person's life. And what a ride it has been! And God's been calling ever since. He still calls me to new things, new places, new challenges, always keeping me in just enough over my head that I must rely on His strength to keep going. Comfort zones keep calling as well, luring me to rest with the promise of security, order and routine. Dragons continuously appear to threaten any hope of progress; fear of the unknown, an honest realization that I'm completely unfit for the tasks ahead, criticism from others, relationships that come and go, and so many others stand in the pathway the Lord has laid out for me. Sometimes I simply want to stop, go into some inner chamber, close the door and shut the entire world away. Sometimes discouragement and fatigue gang up on me and threaten to defeat me. And every day I'm amazed at how little the Lord seems to be concerned with all my excuses. But then I turn another corner and there stands Jesus, arms out wide, encouraging me to come close to Him. When I do I realize He's got a double yoke about His shoulders with the smaller opening just large enough for mine. His smile gives me new strength as He comes alongside and I feel the smooth curved shape of His yoke settle on my shoulders. But then the strangest thing happens. The weight of His yoke, though it should be adding to the burden I've been carrying, suddenly shifts the weight off my shoulders and onto His. I look into His eyes, the same ones that pierced the ages of time and saw me as He suffered on the cross so many years ago, and I see a far-away look. My Lord says nothing; simply turns toward the distant horizon and points. Out there I can see fields of grain ripe for the harvest, trees heavy with their ripe fruit and vines loaded down with plump purple grape clusters. But there's no one harvesting. "Who will go?" He asks as a tear begins to make its way down His cheek. Who will go? As the songwriter, Daniel March, put it:
Hark! The voice of Jesus calling; "Who will go and work today? Fields are white, the harvest waiting. Who will bear the sheaves away?" Loud and long the Master calleth; Rich reward He offers free. Who will answer, gladly saying, "Here am I, O Lord; send me"?
If you cannot cross the ocean, And the heathen lands explore, You can find the heathen nearer; You can help them at your door. If you cannot speak like angels, If you cannot preach like Paul, You can tell the love of Jesus; You can say He died for all.
While the souls of men are dying, And the Master calls for you, Let none hear you idly saying, "There is nothing I can do!" Gladly take the task He gives you; Let His work your pleasure be; Answer quickly when He calleth, "Here am I, O Lord; send me."