First Things First
�Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.� - Matthew 6:31-33.
Where we are currently living we do not receive CNN news coverage. We do have access to the three major networks. While I have been very interested in knowing what is happening in Eastern Europe they do not seem to have the same level of interest as I do. I know that news coverage and other programming is based primarily on interest surveys of potential viewers. Apparently the majority of viewers are more interested in soap operas and off-color talk shows than they are in a disaster affecting hundreds of thousands of people.
Last week there was a cartoon which appeared in a local newspaper. In the cartoon there is a man sitting in front of a television watching various news stories. Actually the man appears to be asleep through stories about inadequate health insurance coverage, other countries acquiring secret missile technologies, and troops being sent to Kosovo. The man sleeps on until the newscaster reports the Dow closing above 10,000. At that point the man becomes wide awake jumping into the air with his hands above his head as if he had just scored a touchdown.
Yesterday and today one of the most important news stories appear to be the possible contamination of bottled water. Assuming the priority placed on reporting of news is the same priority as the majority of the population we have a problem. My priorities are not always the best and at times they have been very bad. However, I know when anything is coming first in my life besides God that I have developed an idol. I may not have a golden calf on my table that I bow down before but if I have one in my mind, that is just as bad.
What is the most important thing to you? What do you spend the most time thinking about? What do you spend the most time working toward achieving?
The Signs Of Life
�And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.� - I John 5:11.
Where I live we can see the signs of spring bursting forth all around us. The vibrant signs of life are obvious every where we look. Spring is here to stay unless we have one of those rare April blizzards like they did in 1938. But even if the blizzard comes we know spring will eventually take hold and the colors of life will be every where.
Jesus is the Prince of Life. If Jesus has hold of your life there may come some rare blizzards but eventually life will come to every area of your life.
Life will come to your heart: �We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.� - I John 3:14a.
Life will come to your mind: �And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.� - John 17:3.
Life will come to your hands: �Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers: but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.� - Ephesians 6:6-7.
Life will come to our feet: �Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.� - Galatians 5:1.
Life will come to our use of material things: �But whoso hath this world�s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?� - I John 3:17.
Are the signs of eternal life obvious in you? If not let ask of God that the Prince of Life, the Son of God, would give you life and give it to you abundantly in every area of your life.
The Insanity Of Sin
�I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offense, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early (Hosea 5:15).�
God says He is going to withdraw His presence from the people of Israel until they repent. There was a state of lawlessness among the people. You could call it spiritual insanity. They knew very well what they should and should not do but they were not obedient to God. Spiritual insanity abounds on planet earth as we near the end of the twentieth century. Think about it. Is it rational to ignore the will of Almighty God? Is it rational to insult the Creator of the Universe every time you have a chance? Is ethnic cleansing really rational? Spiritual insanity abounds on planet earth and it seems to be in every human heart including mine to some degree.
To engage in the spiritual insanity means for those who are without salvation that there could come a time of judgment (Hebrews 9:27). For those who have salvation to engage in the spiritual insanity of sin means there will be broken fellowship, lost power, and discipline. For a nation it means that God may very well withdraw His protection.
Hosea gives the way to return to sanity: �Come let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth (Hosea 6:1-3).�
To end the insanity we must �... return unto the Lord.�
Wars and Storms
�But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon (Acts 27:14).�
�And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope that we should be saved was then taken away (Acts 27:20).�
Storms are a part of life here on planet earth. Some storms are physical; tornados, floods, earthquakes, and hurricanes/cyclones. We live in a terribly violent world. There is storm of war now which has come upon the Yugoslavian and Kosovar people. We know of other storms which sometime come. We face the deaths of loved ones, job losses, accidents, diseases, soured friendships, and countless other emotional storms during a lifetime.
There are two ways to go through these storms. The first approach is the one of the centurions, the soldiers, and the sailors aboard the ship with the apostle Paul. What should have been a beautiful Mediterranean cruise had turned into a nightmare. The ship was blown around like an eggshell for two weeks. We cannot imagine the terror of it. For two weeks knowing that at any time the ship could sink and they would lose their lives. After two weeks they had no hope of surviving. �...all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.�
The first approach to the storms of life is the normal human response. However, we do not have to give up. There is another way to face these seemingly hopeless situations which roll unexpectedly into our lives. We look at the apostle Paul�s reactions. Paul apparently never experienced panic. Paul did not even worry! What did Paul have that kept him so steady in the midst of such a horrendous situation? Paul had anchors. Paul had anchors of faith that kept him from overturning in the rough sea of life. Paul�s response was: �...I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me (Acts 27:25b).�
In the midst of the storms which have come upon us let us not forget to remember the things which He has told us. We have a Book full of His promises to us. Let us believe them!!
When The Spirit Says....
�Now when they had gone throughout Phryagia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us (Acts 16:6-9).�
You�ve most likely experienced it. You wanted to do something with all your heart. You just knew this was what you should do but the door was shut and God just kept saying �No.� The apostle Paul experienced the same thing. It was not for a lack of his praying, or for a lack of his spirituality. It was simply not God�s will for Paul at that point. It may have been that God was protecting Paul from something.
Some of you are familiar with Henry Blackaby�s study course �Experiencing God.� While I was going through the Experiencing God course I watched the video tapes made to go with the course (The first set of videos produced.). On the tapes at a seminar there was a man who was very upset. He very much wanted to be a missionary to Rwanda in Africa. But God had closed the door and sent him somewhere else. Since the videos were filmed, and by the time I watched the tape, I knew what the missionary did not know. If he had gone to Rwanda, he and his family most likely would have been killed in the blood bath that swept across that nation.
David Crum, an evangelist I once heard, said he had a mission trip planned for Africa but God sent him instead to Indonesia. It happens to many of our plans. We think we are doing, or going, what we should. But God stops us. Blocks our path. Before we become upset and angry with God let us remember God sees the road ahead. It may just be that God is loving us. It may just be that He is protecting us from some terrible thing. In the 23rd Psalm David says, �Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.� God is going before us to prepare the table of life.
When the Spirit says, �No,� even though it is not what we planned for, or wanted, or dreamed - let us trust Him.
Today�s devotional was written by Valerie McDonald.
God Loves "The Lost"
God Loves "The Lost"
�And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.� Jude 1:22, 23
Over the past few months the Lord kept highlighting hell to me. It was an unsettling reminder; but one with greater intensity and description than I'd ever been exposed to. Everything I watched or heard for a time seemed directed toward the realities and characteristics of hell. I even heard testimonies of those who had gone and returned!!
When the Lord highlights things to me I normally think about them for a while and dialog with the Lord about what is so important about this issue, and what is it specifically that He may want to show me. This time I wasn't too quick to ask that question; revelations of hell are difficult to take and the ones I'd had were more than I really wanted to know!
Interestly enough though, my thoughts turned to "the lost", and how much God loves them. My thoughts impressed upon me scriptures regarding God's lack of delight in the wicked perishing, the one lost sheep that Jesus would go after, and more importantly the prodigal children. My heart ached for them and I experienced this longing with compassion and empathy for the emptiness of their souls.
For believers "the lost" are a difficult group for us. We as the scripture says, "hate their garments", despise their lifestyles and distance ourselves from them when it comes to true relationship. One prophet, Jonah, did exactly that when God called him to the very "city of the lost". I think all of us can really relate to his reaction. But these are the very people that the Lord loves greatly, and desires we love too. So much so, that He commands us to aggressively go after them, even to the point of sacrificing our own lives.
My revelation of hell turned into God's passion for "the lost", and how unnecessarily they go to hell. Hell is a horrible place, and the most horrible thing about it is that it is without the presence and the life of God. May this devotional remind you of the great passion God has for "the lost". I exhort you; tell those lost people you know of God's great love for them! Engage them, enter into their lives! Have compassion on them and make a difference! Point them to the cross, snatching them out of the fire of hell; and offering them the greatest gift ever; forgivness and a life with the True and Living God forever. After all, it is our Father's heart................
What Kind Of Neighbor?
�Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him. Go, and do thou likewise (Luke 10:36-37).�
Most of us have heard the parable of the Good Samaritan many times. We remember that a man was on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho. Robbers jumped the man, beat him severely, took all he had, even his clothes leaving him for dead. A priest went by and tried to ignore the situation by walking as far away on the roadway as he could from the injured man. A Levite also passed by. He actually stopped and looked but then went on. It was only the third man, the Samaritan, who stopped and helped. This man went to the man injured man, gave him first aid, and took him to an Inn. There the Samaritan promised to pay for the cost of the injured man�s stay, for however long it took for him to recover.
We can all sympathize with the priest and the Levite who went by without helping. Perhaps the robbers were still waiting nearby to attack anyone who stopped. It may have been a trick of the times like some use today. Hitchhikers today sometimes stand by a disabled car and then walk away as if it has just broken down. It could have been that the priest and the Levite were on their way to conduct urgent business of great importance. Or, they may have thought they were just too busy and did not have the time to spare. Maybe they just did not want to get involved.
Think about the Good Samaritan. He was generous with his very life and with his money. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was steep, winding, and was infamous for its robbers during the time of Jesus. The Samaritan literally took his life in his hands to help the wounded man. He was generous with his oil, wine, and his money. A pence or a denaria was a day�s wage, and he gave two of them to the innkeeper with a promise of more if needed.
The Good Samaritan was fulfilling the Law through love. Because of love the Good Samaritan did not ask: �Is he one of us? Would he help me if I were in his place? Am I really responsible to do anything?� No, he simply stopped and helped.
�Go, and do thou likewise.�
Don�t Fall Out
�So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way (Genesis 45:24).�
Joseph has made himself known to his brothers and was sending them back for the rest of the family. The mission is critical. The famine is raging. The family must be running out of food. For the brothers of Joseph to delay or be sidetracked by anything would have resulted in the loss of life. So Joseph charges his brothers, �See that ye fall not out by the way.� Joseph knows his brothers. He knew how prone they were to argue among themselves. He knew how prone they were to become sidetracked. They have their assignment. They must not fail!
Today the family of God is made up of all those who have received Jesus Christ as their Savior; who have been born again as Jesus commands in John chapter three. The situation now for the family of God is much like it was as Joseph sent his brothers to bring the rest of the family to safety. Some of those who should be a part of the family of God have not yet been brought to safety. Jesus says in John 10:10, �And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.�
We have been given a great assignment (Matthew 28:18-20), to bring to safety, to bring into the sheep fold of the Great Shepherd Jesus, all those who would hear and respond to His voice. For the brothers of Joseph there would be no rest, no retirement, until the family was brought to safety. How can we rest when those around us, meant to be included in the safety of the family of God are dying and going out into eternity without Jesus?
�See that ye fall not out by the way!�
�And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven... (Matthew 16:19a).�
In 1990 a tragedy occurred that could have been avoided. It happened at a Houston, Texas apartment complex. Two 15 month old toddlers drowned. It need not have happened. Two men who were standing nearby and were aware of what was happening did nothing. When questioned by police they could not give any reason for not trying to save the lives of the little children.
Of course it is very hard to understand how someone could just stand by and let two small children drown. But what condition must our own hearts be in to let the days, months, years go by aware that there are people we know who are lost. We are aware that if these people were to die they would go to a terrible place called hell and once there they would never be able to leave. What kind of cold hearted people are we if we do not reach out and share with them about Jesus?
What can you do? What can I do? The passage of Scripture in Matthew 16 says that Peter is given the keys to Heaven. What is the key to Heaven? The key to Heaven is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each one of us who have salvation knows the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. We have the key! We can use, that key to open the door to Heaven for the lost to enter. How? By telling them about Jesus!
Who can you tell today?
�And, behold a hand touched me... (Daniel 10:10a).�
�...Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words (Daniel 10:12).�
Have you ever been touched by God? God is able to touch and change our lives even when we have given up. Daniel had been in prayer for many days. Maybe he had come close to giving up. But he was told that God had heard his words from the very first day he had begun to pray.
In the face of the pressures of life under which we live today it is hard for us to wait. We have remote controls for the TV, VCR, Stereos, the garage doors, and many other things. We press a button and there is an instant response. We pick up the telephone, push a button and almost instantaneously we are talking to someone miles away. Now with email, with the click of the mouse, an electronic communication can go around the world in less than a second of time.
Most of us would like to have the touch of God on our lives. We want His life giving touch of eternal life through Jesus. When we are ill we want the healing touch. We want the touch of His provision for our needs. Not only do we want God to touch our lives but we want Him to touch the lives of those around us as well. To have that touch on our lives and the lives of others can be costly. Because we cannot click on a button called prayer and have prayer. We cannot push a button on our remote control and order God to do this or that.
For the touch of God to be on our life requires the sacrifice of some time. Waiting is not something we want to do. But to have the touch of God on our lives and the lives of others we must wait upon the Lord. Only then can we �...mount up with wings as eagles (Isaiah 40:31).�
�Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die (John 11:25 - 26a).�
Jesus makes the above statement just before bring Lazarus back to life. Then, Jesus asks Martha, �Believest thou this?� Soon after the affirmative response of Martha, Jesus calls Lazarus back to life. In John 5:12 the Bible says, �He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.�
There are so many who are desperately trying to find life in all the wrong places. They are trying to find life in making more money. They think if they could just make a little more money they could buy more things and then they would have a life. There are those who are trying to drink their way to a life. There are those who are trying to do drugs to have a life. There are those who through sexual immoralities are trying to have a life. These things do not bring life but death. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us, �Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever.�
I received a prayer request last night from Randy Johnson which really says it all: �Me and my wife ask you pray for us, we just got saved Dec. 21, 1998 and we got a lot to learn about the lord. We ask you to pray for us that we never go back doing what we were doing before. God has been good to us never thought it would be like this, couldn't ask for anything better.�
Neither could I!!
What Place? What Message?
�In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea (Matthew 3:1).�
�Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan. And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins (Matthew 3:5-6).�
John the Baptist would never have made it as a church growth expert in our modern world. We know that we cannot expect the people to come to us. We know we have to go to where the people are. Isn�t that what we are being taught? All we have to do to have a mega church is find a community that is growing. Plant our church on the outer edge and the church will automatically experience great growth.
Ever wonder what kind of message John was preaching to have all those people come out to the middle of nowhere to hear him? He must of had a great seeker service. He must of approached those people with a message of gentleness and love. According to what we are told by today�s church growth experts John the Baptist should never have gotten anyone to come to his seeker services. Why? His message was harsh. It stepped on their toes. He was a voice in the wilderness saying, �Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2).�
You have to wonder how John thought he was ever going to be able to go to a larger church? Because, his strongest words were directed to those in power of the religious establishment. �But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance (Matthew 3:7-8).� John must have never heard of networking.
Before we decide God�s message is too harsh to share.... Before we decide God cannot use us in the place where we are.... Before we decide to be quiet because of the power of someone else.... Let us first find what God would want us to say and where God wants us to be.
Where would God have you to be today? What message would God have you to carry forth to the world around you this day?
Our Deepest Need
�And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed where in the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee (Mark 2:3-5).�
�I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion (Mark 2:11-12).�
I can understand their amazement. There are times when I come to church and wish that something different would happen. There are times when I hope something extraordinary would happen this time. My life, including my devotional time, too often becomes ordinary, predictable. It is the same thing over and over. You have probably experienced that too. You�ve experienced it at your church. Most services bear a close resemblance to the previous service. We pray, we sing, we hear a sermon, we pray again and we go home.
This incident in the life of Jesus with the healing of the paralyzed man is a reminder. It is a reminder that our lives, and churches can be interrupted, disturbed, transformed, changed, and given meaning by our Lord Jesus. What was it that brought about this dramatic interruption of services and miraculous healing of the paralyzed man? It occurred because he and his friends realized that only Jesus could help.
Each of us have needs, maybe not as severe as the paralyzed man but we have needs. When we reach the point of acknowledging that only Jesus can meet those needs then the ordinary can become extraordinary. At that point, church, ceases to be monotonous and repetitive. At that point our personal devotional time takes on new meaning. Church and our devotional time has new meaning because it has become very personal.
What is our deepest need of all? Our deepest need is to know God and to experience Him. The something unusual, the something different, the something extraordinary that we long for when we come to church is God. To experience God we must acknowledge our need of Him and that we cannot do life by ourselves. When we come to that point we will find that church, the praying, the singing, and the preaching is alive. We will find that praying and reading God�s Word is something that we just cannot live without.
Attempt Great Things
�Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them (Joshua 1:6).�
Joshua has received a promotion to Leader of the Children of Israel and Commander in Chief of the Israeli armed forces. Joshua has just taken over the reins from Moses. But this is not necessarily a promotion that Joshua wanted or desired to have. This was not going to be a cake walk. There were so many people. They had proven in the past to be a rebellious people. At least their parents were. They had it in their blood. Joshua knew he had to protect these people and at the same time conquer a land filled with strong cities and people. For many it would have been an impossible task. God knew Joshua would need courage.
Courage can be valor demonstrated as the soldier or others face death. Courage, however, can and must be demonstrated to live the Christian life. John F. Kennedy once said, �Without belittling the courage with which men have died we should not forget those acts of courage with which . . . men have lived.�
Much of what God calls on us to do as His child requires courage. It requires courage for us to take seriously the Great Commission. It requires courage for us to live out the Sermon on the Mount. It certainly requires courage to follow in the steps of Jesus. Sometimes, however, we are called on to face what may seem to be an impossible task. We may face our own Jericho as did Joshua. Will we have the courage? Can it be done?
J. A. Holmes said, �Never tell anyone it can�t be done. God may have been waiting for centuries for somebody ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing.�
Teddy Roosevelt said, �I am only an average man, but I work harder at it than the average man.�
When William Carey began to make preparations to go to India as a missionary his father tried to talk him out of it. His father pointed out that he had no academic qualifications for such a task. Carey�s response was, �I can plod.� I think we can agree he did more than plod! Carey�s motto or theme of life was: �Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.�
Attempted anything great for God lately?
For or Against?
�He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad (Matthew 12:30).�
In Matthew 12:30 Jesus is drawing the line. He is making it clear who stands with Him and who is against Him. We cannot straddle the fence. It is all or nothing. Jesus is Lord of our lives or He is not Lord at all. We can try to hide in our foxhole but the enemy will find us. During the Civil War, a Union soldier was shot in the arm at the battle of Shiloh. His captain, noting his injury, ordered him out of the battle, saying, �Gimme your gun, Private, and get to the rear.� The soldier handed over his rifle and ran north seeking safety. After running a few hundred yards, he ran into a skirmish. He then ran east and came upon another part of the battle. He turned west and soon encountered more fighting, so he ran back to the front lines. He ran up to his captain and said, �Gimme my gun back, Cap�n. There ain�t no rear to this battle!� (From James W. Moore�s book �Seizing the Moment.�). There is no �rear� to our battle either!
There are some dangerous people in the spiritual realm. They are people who often seem to be sincere about their religion. They believe in God. They go to church. They try to be good, moral people about most things. They usually say the right words. Sadly, they have been deceived by the enemy and are being used by the enemy. They have religion instead of a relationship with Jesus. They may be church members but they are not Christians. They may contribute but they have not been changed. They may have been baptized, but they did not believe in their hearts unto righteousness. They may be leaders in the church but they have not made Jesus the Lord of their lives. They may respect God, but they do not allow Jesus to sit on the throne of their hearts.
So, are we with Him or against Him? Do we gather or scatter?
Groanings and Glory
�And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:17-18).�
Soon after I became a Christian I wrote a song about life being so good with no problems and sky being blue with no clouds in sight to rain on my parade. Life was so bright I thought I needed to wear shades. I now know things are not always wonderful as a Christian. We are not called to a life of ease. Instead we are issued uniforms and weapons of war as we are told in Ephesians 6:10-11, �Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.�
The way of the Christian is not always easy because we are called to make a stand. We need to know ahead of time that there is going to be some groaning, there is going to be some pain and suffering. Paul does tell us in Romans 8:17 that �...the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory...� to come. This is an amazing statement especially when Paul applies it to himself. It is amazing because when Paul�s ship wasn�t sinking, or he wasn�t being stoned, or robbed, he was being whipped to within an inch of losing his life. Paul was not being a poet when he told the Galatians (6:17), �...let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.� Despite Paul�s sufferings he says that the present sufferings are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory. That is amazing!!
Paul begins Romans 8:18 by saying, �I reckon,� meaning that he has thought it over carefully. He says much the same thing in 2 Corinthians 4:17. No matter what we have gone through, are presently going through, or will go through, when you add it all up the total groans are not worth comparing to the glory awaiting us. You can compare a glass of water with the ocean. But we cannot compare our sufferings with the coming glory because Paul says they, �...are not worthy to be compared.� For all Christians a glory awaits us that exceeds the wildest imaginations of even the most gifted science fiction writers. One bright, shining day our groanings will be replaced by glory!!
Bridges Of Friendship
�Paul a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellow laborer, And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow soldier, and to the church in thy house: Grace to you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Philemon 1:1-3).�
�I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds (Phelemon 1:10).�
The letter to Philemon was written on behalf of Onesimus. Onesimus was a slave who had stole from his owner and fled to Rome. Onesimus has been transformed by the saving grace of Jesus. Because Onesimus and Philemon are now brothers in Christ they have a different relationship than before. Onesimus needed a friend, and Paul tells Philemon of their friendship through Christ. We still need friends today. Yesterday someone emailed me after receiving the devotional and said that they had become my friend, though, I did not even know it.
In order for the church to grow. In order for the Gospel to spread we have to develop new friendships. There are not as many actual slaves in the world today (The truth is there are still thousands and we should strive to end it.) but there are countless slaves to sin. Friendship is a bridge of God into the lives of those captured by sin. We must have faith to walk over those bridges into their lives with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul wanted Philemon to give Onesimus a future. When we receive Christ Jesus as our Savior we also receive an eternal future. If we know Jesus we have a future. But what about those around us. Let us by faith walk over bridges of friendship to give eternal futures to those bound in the slavery of sin.
Who can you begin to be a friend to today?
Eyes of Faith
�Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).�
Augustine once said about faith, �Now it is faith to believe that which you do not yet see; and the reward of faith is to see that which you believe.�
Noah must have been able to see that horrible flood that was coming. He could see it in his mind and in his heart. So while the sun was shining and while the world laughed he built the ark. Abraham could see in his heart and mind �a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.� God did not give Abraham a map but He did give him a vision. It was enough for Abraham to leave his home with all he had and set out on a great adventure.
With eyes of faith we see Jesus and believe on Him to receive salvation. With eyes of faith we walk with Jesus through the mountains and the valleys of this life. With eyes of faith we live each day seeking to follow Him (Jesus) more closely to be conformed to His image. With eyes of faith we see our eternal home where there will be no more tears or pain.
Let us look through eyes of faith this day!
�But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:14-15).�
In the state of Washington they have been inundated with rain and the ground has become more than saturated. This morning on the news I was shocked to see a home sinking into what was called a sinkhole. The home was sagging in the middle and soon it will come apart and slide into the hole. Thankfully, those who lived inside the home had time to escape before this catastrophe came upon them. But their lives will never be the same. The dreams they had for their home is gone.
Temptation is no respecter of persons. Every person is tempted at some point in life just as James says in verse 14. For some it comes on them suddenly. Others it is a slow slide. For all of us it can be much like a sinkhole that appears in our lives. Some are able to escape safely. Others disappear into the hole and never recover. Frank Peretti wrote a book in which a dragon is a picture of sin. The dragon was at first only small and a pet. But as the people sinned more and more the dragon became a monster that threatened to consume them all. When temptation comes let us not play around with it. It is not a pet. It is a monster that will destroy us if we do not rid ourselves of it first.
James says in verse 12 of chapter one: �Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.� Are you in the sinkhole of temptation? Climb out before it is too late!!!
Where Are You?
�For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God: and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:12-14).�
Tragically many of us do not grow to maturity as Christians. Others grow slower than some. I know exactly why I did not grow as I should have after receiving Christ as my Savior. It was because I was not praying as I should have. I was not reading God�s Word as I should have. I was not attending church as I should have, and I was not serving God as I should have. Whenever I began to do those things I began to grow as a Christian.
To grow as children of God our spiritual nature must be fed. Paul is speaking of that in Romans 8:5-6, �For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.� In Romans 13:14 Paul tells us, �But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.� We are to clothe ourselves with Jesus and instead of thinking about how to gratify the flesh we should be thinking about how to feed our spiritual nature.
Paul gives us some things to feed the spiritual nature with in Philippians 4:8-9, �Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.� We know Paul said to follow him because he was walking in the steps of Jesus. We know that Paul was preaching the Word of God. We know that he was a man of prayer. We know that he was very, very busy in the service of His Lord.
On a scale of one to ten, where are you at as a Christian? Have you grown in maturity since salvation or do you still need to be taught the basic �...principles of the oracles of God?� The good news is that we can grow if we want to. Ask God to help you to grow as His child.
�Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast....�
The dictionary tells us that hope is an expectation of something desired. Dante defined it as �waiting with certainty.� It is more than wishing; hope is a confident anticipation of something yet to come. Confidence is trust or reliance upon something or someone. For Christians that something or someone is Jesus Christ.
Our bodies and minds can withstand a great amount of pressure. We can withstand the physical pressure of cold and of heat. We can withstand great amounts of pain. We can also go through times of illness, financial problems, marital problems, unemployment, or even the death of someone close to us. We can, if we don�t lose one very important thing. That thing is hope. Take away our hope and we can withstand very little. Without hope we simply give up.
Sometimes winds of trouble blow our way which attack our hope. The wind of things happening that should never happen attacks our hope. The death of a loved one is an example. The wind of things that should happen that never happen. For some healing never comes. The wind of things that should happen now but happen much later. Moses appears to have wanted to lead his people to freedom 40 years before it occurred. These winds of trouble eat away at our hope.
If you have experienced these winds of trouble or others then Hebrews six is for you. We are encouraged not to give up because: �God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love, which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end. That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.�
You can do it! You can continue on in the face of the winds of trouble. Why! Because you have �an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.�
�Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you (1 Peter 5:6-7).�
Some time ago the Hayden Planetarium in New York City invited all those interested in being part of the first spaceship crew to go to another planet to fill out an application. Eighteen thousand people filled out applications. Those applications were given to a group of psychologists who attempted to determine the reasons the people applied. They determined the vast majority of them applied because they were so discouraged with their lives that they were hoping to start a new life somewhere else.
All of us have been discouraged at one point or another. Many of the great servants of God in the Bible had times of discouragement. Even our Lord wept over Jerusalem. So what should we do if we are discouraged?
First, acknowledge the problem but don�t dwell upon it. Don�t put all of your focus upon the problem itself but focus instead upon the Lord and His resources. Jesus wept over Jerusalem but He didn�t sit there all day crying. He got up and went down into the city. There were some things He needed to do.
Second, remind yourself of your abilities, your assets. David did this in 1 Samuel 30. He reminded himself of the things that were still his. Just because you miss the plane doesn�t mean you have to cancel the whole vacation. Regroup!
Third, take a long and wide look at the possibilities. We know that God promises to bring good out of the bad for those who love Him and are the called according to His purpose. So, what is the good? Where is the good? Look around until you see it.
Whatever your discouragement God does have the power to hold you together. It may very well be that out of the blackest day of your life there is a dawn waiting to burst forth. Cast all your cares, all your anxiety, all your worries, all your problems, all your discouragement upon God!
�And it came to pass, when he was in a certain city, behold a man full of leprosy: who seeing Jesus fell on his face, and besought him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean (Luke 5:12).�
Had any interruptions lately? Jesus was constantly being interrupted. What was His response? The response of Jesus was to meet the need of this Leper. In verse 13 we are told, �And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.� In verse 18 Jesus is preaching and is interrupted again, �And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.� They tore a hole in the roof and lowered their friend to the feet of Jesus. Jesus forgave the man�s sins and healed him as well.
One Sunday morning as I was praying in the church I heard someone pounding on the doors which were still locked. The man shared that he had a flat tire but no spare and needed to use a telephone to call his wife. As we waited for his wife to come we were able to talk about God and found that this man had wandered away. God was using that interruption to call His child back to Him. However, I could have ignored the opportunity. I could have ignored the pounding on the doors.
How often have I been irritated at interruptions? How often have you? I believe Jesus saw interruptions as opportunities to minister. Often interruptions come at busy times. They come at times when we seem to have little time to spare. But with those interruptions come opportunities. Opportunities to be the hands of God in ministry.
Copyright 1999. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.