Stirred up…

“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:24)

Do you know what God sees when He looks at you and me? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God sees you through eyes of love — not as you are, but as you can be. That is the kind of love we are supposed to reflect as well. Since the Bible says that we can do all things in Christ, we should encourage each other. Our verse this morning actually says that we should be thinking of ways to “stir up love and good works” in each other.

Paul Simon wrote a rather depressing song back in the 60’s. It probably reflected the mood of the times, but the lyric were —

I’ve built walls, 
A fortress deep and mighty, 
That none may penetrate. 
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. 
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. 
I am a rock, 
I am an island.

Simon is attempting to claim that he doesn’t need anyone. People may try to live in isolation, but I think deep down inside we all need others to console and assure us during times of distress. Simon’s song went on to say, “A rock feels no pain, and an island never cries.” That’s depressing!

A little boy was observed on his way to church in a large city. On his way someone asked him where he was going. He gave the name of the church, which surprised the stranger. “That’s a long walk — why would you go so far just to attend church.” The boy replied, “Because people love you there!”

My friends, it is not enough to have the right theology — we need to be the right people! We must speak the truth in love. People do not expect from the church a constant stream of profound statements; they expect love, concern and caring. Some churches are marked by conflict — they spend all their energy defending their doctrines and attacking those who disagree with them. And all the while people are hurting — needing someone to care about them. Being “right” isn’t enough. Remember this: people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

So what are you stirring up this morning? Have you thought about how you could be an encourager today? Perhaps there is someone at work who needs to be “stirred up.” Or maybe your husband or wife could use a little encouragement. Why not do exactly what the Bible says and “stir up love and good works” in your spouse. When he/she get up off the floor from surprise — let them know that as a Christian we should all encourage one another. We we ask the right questions and demonstrate genuine interest and listen closely to our family and friends, we will be better at giving that much needed encouragement.

Instead of stirring up conflict today — try stirring up a little encouragement.

Have a great day.

 

You May Be Just One BUT…

“Noah, however, found favor in the sight of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8)

Whenever I hear someone say, “I can’t do anything. I’m just one person,” I’m reminded of Noah. He is the perfect example of what one person can do. It was Noah who preserved the line of human existence at a time when the Bible says that “the Lord regretted that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Gen. 6:6). 

If it’s been a while since you last read the story of Noah, go back and read it. The Bible is quite graphic as it describes the human condition in Noah’s day. Humanity was completely corrupt and God was ready to just do away with His creation.

The only explanation you can find for the salvation of Noah and his family is God’s grace. Thankfully, God did not overlook Noah and God remembered the one person who had a heart for Him and was living for Him.

I believe that the history of the world hinges on our verse for today. I’m so thankful that God opened the door of His favor to Noah and his family. Because of that grace, I am saved and so are you!

Noah was obedient to God and followed His commands exactly. With no evidence to go on other than God’s pronouncement, Noah did everything God told him to do. Noah didn’t have access to http://www.weather.com or to Jim Cantorie or even Greg Fishel! He just had faith in God.

There is nothing wrong with getting all the information we can before we make a decision, but always remember Noah’s example. Don’t let the world and it’s “knowledge” keep you from following what God calls you to do. If God calls you to take a step of faith that seems to go against the wisdom of the world, remember Noah and be obedient. The favor of God will be showered upon you when you do.

Have a great Wednesday.

Now I’ve Heard It All…

“A gossip goes around revealing a secret, but a trustworthy person keeps a confidence.” (Proverbs 11:13)

I just read an article by an “expert” in philosophy that says gossip is a good and helpful thing! It has value in the culture. This quack — I mean learned philosopher — said that gossip is entertaining and it releases people from the tedium of everyday life. He also postulates that gossip helps to define socially accepted behavior. Gossip makes the person who starts the story feel important. His ego is built up by pulling down someone else to his own level.

So…there you have it. Gossip is good for you! I know some people who have believed that all their life. In our culture, scandal is big business. Just look at the trash available for purchase in the line at the grocery store. Take a look at the listings in your TV Guide. We call it “reality TV.” We live in a day and age when everybody wants to know all the dirt they can about everybody else.

Don’t let the devil fool you. Gossip is still a sin. It is a sin against God for us to spread stories about others. It seems to me that the problem in the world today is not that people tell all they know. The problem is that people tell MORE than they know. Will Rogers said, “The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.”

In I Corinthians 13, the Bible says that love doesn’t rejoice in iniquity — therefore spreading and listening to gossip shouldn’t bring pleasure. The very thought of dragging someone else down just so we can feel better about ourselves should be repugnant to a Christian.

Dr. Herschel Hobbs said, “A gossiper usually knows where to take his garbage. Avoid making your ears someone else’s garbage can!”

Beginning right now, let’s covenant together to check every impulse we may have to spread a rumor. When someone tries to tell you the latest juicy gossip — tell them that you’ve decided to make James 4:11 your life verse — “Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

If we will start standing up to those who feed on telling the latest tales, they will stop telling all that stuff they really don’t know! Charles H. Spurgeon said, “I never like people to tell me secrets, for I cannot keep them.”

Have a great Tuesday.

Impacting Your World

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Proverbs 16:7)

Nathatus Stach was a missionary in Greenland. For over 20 years, his efforts to impact Greenland for Christ were met with constant and fierce opposition. Writing about his life there, Stach said, “My every move was misunderstood. My efforts to win these people whom I loved were repulsed by scoffing, but I knew that God who had called me was faithful and that He would eventually conquer the hearts of my vindictive critics. After two decades of weary toil, I sat one day reading aloud from the third chapter of the Gospel of John. Unknown to me, my chief persecutor was listening intently to every word. Suddenly he burst into my hut and demanded that I read it again. As I repeated the gracious words, this former enemy began to tremble and asked me to show him the way of salvation. The Holy Spirit then began to work in the hearts of others, and soon many were led to Christ. One after another, those who had been antagonistic came to me and pleaded for pardon. Thus my foes became my friends.”

No matter how often I read it — that continues to be an amazing story to me. Over and over in the Bible, you and I are taught that we should love those who mistreat us. Jesus told us to pray for people who persecute us. If we truly are going to demonstrate the character of Christ to the world — we actually should pray that our enemies will be blessed! That’s not easy and I am keenly aware that I am unable to do that on my own. If is only through the enabling ministry of the Holy Spirit that I can ever hope to achieve such a high standard.

The Bible promises us that if we will yield ourselves to the control of the Holy Spirit, even our enemies will become our friends. Someone has said, “the most glorious victory you can have over an enemy is to turn him into a friend.” I think that is a great way to start our week together. Let’s pray that we can turn those who oppose us into our friends in Jesus Christ.

What an impact we could have on this world if we truly were obedient to the idea of surrendering ourselves completely to God so that even our enemies are at peace with us. May it be so in my life Lord!

Have a great Monday.

Spending time with the God of peace…

“And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Each year, the American Institute for Preventive Medicine issues a “Top 10 Healthiest Resolutions.” In one recent list, stress management was listed as a “healthy resolution.” Stress is responsible for 2/3 of all office visits to doctors, and plays a role in our two major killers — heart disease and cancer. 62% of all Americans say they experience a great deal of stress at least once a week. Those most likely to experience stress almost every day are people in their forties.

One stressed-out secretary told her boss: “When this rush is over, I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. I earned it, I deserve it, and nobody’s going to take it from me!”

There are all kinds of prescriptions for stress reduction today. Your local book store is filled with self-help books that supposedly teach you how to deal with stress. Maybe you have actually tried some of those things only to find that they actually caused more stress than you had before. We live in a world of stress. So what do we do?

I have a very simple suggestion that has helped me. I call it the 20 minute principle. I have greatly reduced my stress level through this practice. The 20 minute principle is very simple. You just spend 20 minutes in a quiet time with God EVERY DAY. Did you realize that the Bible has a lot to say about stress? God didn’t intend for us to lead such busy lives that we fail to enjoy His creation. He never intended for us to be so stressed that we couldn’t enjoy our family or our job or even our recreation.

Here are a few examples of what the Bible says about stress:

“You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.” (Isaiah 26:3)

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.” (John 14:27)

“Don’t worry about anything, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

David begins Psalm 4 like this… “Answer me when I call, God, who vindicates me. You freed me from affliction; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” By the conclusion of this psalm, he says, “I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, Lord make me live in safety.”

The best way to reduce the stress in your life is to spend time with the God of peace. When you do, you will surely experience the peace of God.

Have a stress-free Thursday!

Loving My Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

Who are your enemies? I’ve discovered that sometimes it is pretty hard to tell! When World War I broke out, the War Ministry in London dispatched a coded message to one of the British outposts in the inaccessible areas of Africa. The message said, “War declared. Arrest all enemy aliens in your district.”

The War Ministry received this prompt reply: “Have arrested ten Germans, six Belgians, four Frenchmen, two Italians, three Austrians, and an American. Please advise immediately who we are at war with.”

E.C. Mckenzie said, “Some people make enemies instead of friends because it is less trouble.” There may be some truth in that statement, but Jesus certainly had the opposite to say to us. He told us to love our enemies and to pray for people who persecute us. That’s not an easy thing to do.

Remember this…the proof that you love your enemies is not that you are crazy about them or even invite them to go on vacation with you. It is that you pray for them — and MEAN IT. Corrie ten Boom said, “When Jesus tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with that command, the love itself.” It is only the grace of God that can enable us to rise to the superhuman level of loving an enemy.

I have learned some hard lessons in 30 years of ministry — and perhaps the hardest is this. When you sincerely pray for those who persecute you — your “enemies,” you have to do two things. First — you ask God to let them off the hook. You don’t hold their attitude or their words against them. Second — you ask God to bless them. When you can do those two things, you have displayed the love Jesus says characterizes His disciples.

Perhaps my favorite story about General Robert E. Lee says that General Lee was speaking — in only the highest terms — to President Davis about a certain officer. Another officer, greatly astonished, said to Lee, “General, do you know that the man of whom you speak so highly to the President is one of your bitterest enemies, and misses no opportunity to malign you?”

General Lee replied, “Yes, but the President asked my opinion of him; he did not ask for his opinion of me.”

Are you following God’s command to “love your enemies” today? Your enemies may curse you, hate you, despitefully use you and take advantage of you. They may persecute you because of your faith in Christ. They may do everything they can to make your life miserable. They may try and discredit you and destroy your reputation. 

Jesus says, “Pray for them. Do good to those who want your demise. Pray for those who walk all over you.”

Have a great Wednesday.

Are you ready to lose it all?

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71)

I read the following story in Billy Graham’s Decision magazine:

“A shipwrecked man managed to reach an uninhabited island. There, to protect himself against the elements and to safeguard the few possessions he had salvaged, he painstakingly built a little hut from which he constantly and prayerfully scanned the horizon for the approach of a ship. Returning one evening after a search for food, he was terrified to find his hut completely enveloped in flames. Yet by divine mercy this hard affliction was changed into a mighty advantage. Early the following morning he awoke to find a ship anchored off the island. When the captain stepped ashore, he explained, ‘We saw your smoke signal and came.’ Everything the marooned man owned had to be destroyed before he could be rescued.”

I don’t know about you — but my natural tendency is to AVOID adversity. We seem to believe that trials and hardships are our enemy, and yet for the Christian, trials often serve to bring on the blessings of God. In reality, affliction and hardship are often useful and profitable in making us more like Christ.

Think of all the characters in the Bible who endured hardship and adversity. There was the prodigal son of Luke 15. He had no intention of returning home to his father until he found himself in the pigpen. In the Old Testament, you have King Manasseh who committed enormous crimes, but his tune changed when he found himself chained in a Babylonian prison. He then cried out to God for mercy.

You and I know people today who have been humbled by their circumstances and then turned to God. Through pain or disease or some other trial, God uses those things to cause us to look to Him and seek His face.

Maybe you are going through a trial of some sort today. Maybe you got up this morning and said, “It’s just not worth it. There is just too much for me to endure.” Maybe you have decided that it is impossible to face another day. If that describes you, then remember our verse for today. The Psalmist said, “it was good for me to be afflicted so that I could learn Your statutes.”

Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later one, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” I don’t know about you — but I must require a whole lot of training. I must often be a slow learner of the things God wants me to learn.

Dr. Leon Morris wrote, “When the high seas are raging, it’s not time to change ships.” Remember this, God knows what is best. He will enable you to pass through this time of trial to a stronger relationship with Him through His Son.

Have a great Tuesday.

You are worthy — O LORD!

“Hallelujah! How good it is to sing to our God, for praise is pleasant and lovely.” (Psalm 147:1)

You and I have so much for which to be thankful. That may seem like an obvious understatement, but in light of some of the things I see and hear, I don’t think it is. When I consider just how blessed I truly am, I realize that my life should be a living anthem of praise to God. The psalmist said that “it is good to sing to our God.” Did you catch that? We sing praises to OUR GOD! He gets the praise — not the choir, not the soloist, not the preacher — GOD! To Him alone belongs our praise. Revelation 4:11 says, “Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created.”

I remember the fellow who came out of church one Sunday complaining about the music. He said, “Preacher, I didn’t like the songs you chose today.” Without blinking an eye, the pastor said, “That’s okay — we weren’t singing them for you!” I’ve often wished I had the guts to say that to some people because it is so true. We are so consumer oriented that we think the church service is just for us. We are told we have to do things a certain way in order for people to come. I even had a petition started against me one time because I moved the singing of the doxology in the order of service!

Let me make this very clear — we should never confuse evangelism with worship. Evangelism is the sharing of the Gospel about Jesus Christ while worship is our response to the God who has provided us with that salvation. When we gather together for “worship” we are not spectators at a show — we are participants in the most awesome privilege given to man — worshiping God.

Our worship is not for us — it is for HIM. Remember what the elders of Revelation 11 said? “Our Lord and God, YOU are worthy to receive glory and honor and power…” When we take our eyes off the Lord and look at our own petty problems, we forget to worship God. Worship and praise of God is the appropriate response of intelligent people toward the God who created and sustains all things. Dr. John MacArthur said, “When you go to church to worship, the issue is not how well prepared the choir or the preacher is. The issue is: How well prepared are YOU to worship GOD?”

The psalmist said, “praise is pleasant and lovely.” Indeed it is when it is directed to the only One who deserves it. I’m convinced that the only people who don’t sing during the worship times at church are those who have nothing to sing about. I know — I’ve heard all the excuses. “Preacher, you don’t want to hear me sing!” And you are right — I don’t want to hear you sing. But God thinks you have a wonderful singing voice — so lift up your voice TO HIM! You aren’t singing to me.

Have a great Monday.

Jeepers, Creepers…

“Protect me as the pupil of Your eye; hide me in the shadow of Your wings from the wicked who treat me violently, my deadly enemies who surround me.” (Psalm 17:8-9)

Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer wrote the words “Jeepers, creepers, where’d  ya get those peepers? Jeepers, creepers, where’d ya get those eyes?” in 1938 for a movie called “Going Places” staring Dick Powell, Anita Louise and Ronald Reagan. The movie was about a wild race horse and his trainer. The only way the horse would let anyone ride him was for his trainer to play that song — “Jeepers, Creepers.” The song made another appearance in 1942 in “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

“So what, Pastor? Do you have a point here?” 

Why yes I do — thanks for asking.

Have you stopped recently to think about how marvelous your eyes are? There is no scientific instrument that is as sensitive to the light as your eye. And in the dark, its sensitivity increases 100,000 times. Our eyes can detect a faint glow, less than a thousandth as bright as a candle’s flame. We can see light from the stars, and the nearest of all the stars is 25 billion miles away.

Automatically, the muscles of our eyes relax so that the lens is small and thick for distant viewing or they stretch the lens to bring something into focus. No wonder our eyes were the original model for cameras.

In His marvelous design, God provided eyelids that automatically close when we sneeze. Our eyes have moistening glands, eyelashes, and eye brows that provide safety for our eyes. The pupil of our eye can in itself do nothing to ward off approaching danger. It is completely dependent upon the protective elements God has provided.

In many ways, you and I are like the pupil of the eye. We are weak and unable to protect ourselves from the dangers around us. But God protects us, His tender care and loving concern will never leave us unshielded from the devil. God’s faithful keeping and Christ’s constant presence are ours.

The hymn writer thought about our eyes when she wrote:

“Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;

Place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unclasp and set me free;

Silently now I wait for Thee, ready my God, Thy will to see;

Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!”

Thank God today that He has provided both for our physical sight and our spiritual sight. And when someone says to you — “Jeepers, creepers — where’d ya get those peepers?” — you can say, “My Heavenly Father gave them to me! Isn’t He wonderful?”

Have a great Thursday.

Christian – Remember Your History!

“When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went into his house. The windows in its upper room opened toward Jerusalem, and three times a day he got down on his knees, prayed, and gave thanks to his God, just as he had done before.” (Daniel 6:10)

Josh Billings once said, “It is better not to know so much, than to know so many things that just ain’t so.”

Jamie O’Neil was a college professor for more than 20 years. While teaching in the state of Washington, he became very concerned at the number of his students who knew too many things that “just ain’t so.” To help diagnose the problem, he developed an eighty-six question quiz to test the general knowledge of his college students. Here are some of the responses he received to that quiz…

  • Charles Darwin invented gravity
  • Ralph Nader is a baseball player
  • Christ lived in the 16th century
  • Sid Caesar was an early Roman emperor
  • Mark Twain invented the cotton gin
  • Dwight Eisenhower served as president in the 17th century
  • Socrates was an Indian chief
  • Camp David is in Israel

We live in a world today that is terrible and dangerously ignorant of general history. Just think — these are the people who are going to be running our country in the future — and in many cases they are running it TODAY! Like the Apostle John, my response to this is — “Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

You sure didn’t have to worry about Daniel forgetting history. He knew that God was with His people — even in exile. Daniel remembered how God had delivered his three friends from the fiery furnace when they stood up for Him. Now, years later, Daniel was faced with a test of character.

As we come to Daniel 6, Daniel’s co-workers concocted a plan to get rid of him. They convinced King Darius to declare himself to be “god for a month.” Anybody who didn’t worship Darius would die in the lion’s den. Daniel was facing a choice. 

Of course, Daniel just kept on being what he had always been and kept doing what he had always done. He kept trusting in the One he had always trusted. He went home and prayed just as he had done every day prior. Daniel had a long history of faithfulness to the true God and he wasn’t about to let those clowns at his office stop his daily worship.

The story of Daniel and the lion’s den has been relegated to children’s storybooks for so long that I fear we adults often forget the power of God that is displayed here. Daniel exposed himself to the fury of the all-powerful King Darius. Nobody could help him. He knew that if he chose to do the right thing, it may very well cost him his life. And yet, he remembered his history. He remembered that God is faithful — always! Daniel didn’t hesitate. There was no doubt in his mind what he ought to do  — so he just did it.

Daniel had a great strength of spiritual character. Remember, the devil knows our weak spots and will attempt to bring us down in those areas. Let’s be like Daniel — remember our history. God is faithful in every situation. We must simply do what is right and God will be with us.

Remember the words of Dr. Charles Stanley — “Obey God and leave the consequences to Him.” Words to live by!

Have a great Wednesday.