Tomorrow…

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)

Years ago a televised baseball game went into extra innings. NBC sportscaster Curt Gowdy announced: “The ‘Tonight Show’ has been canceled, the ‘Tomorrow Show’ will be seen later tonight and the ‘Today Show’ will be seen tomorrow.”

What is important to you today? When you got up this morning, did you immediately start thinking about what you had to do — TOMORROW? I’ve noticed that the devil uses this trap against me many times. He wants me to allow tomorrow to overshadow what I ought to be doing today.

Sooner or later (and for many of us probably sooner) — we will stand before the Lord. In fact, before 2014 is over, some of you who are reading this devotion will stand before God. The longer I live, the more I have come to believe that when I stand before God, things will look a lot different to me.

The things that I thought were important probably will not mean very much. I will not be concerned about what I have to do tomorrow. I will not consider my successes or failures. The things that the world says are important will not matter at all. Instead, I believe that the things I gave little thought to will seem so much more important. 

For example…

I imagine I will think about the Christian testimony I might have given to my neighbor or the mailman or the girl at the checkout line at Food Lion. I imagine that I will think about the prayers I should have prayed for God’s work. I imagine that I will think about the missionaries I could have supported through my prayer life.

I imagine that within a few minutes of my arrival in heaven, I’ll be overwhelmed by the truth that I have always known, but never actually applied to my life. I’ll realize that the only things that really matter are the things that I do for the Lord. I don’t think it will be about how much I gave that mattered, but HOW I gave and how much I DIDN’T give.

When I get to heaven, perhaps I’ll wish that I could reclaim just a fraction of a second that I let slip through my fingers when I could have shared a word about my Lord with someone who was hurting. I will wish I had studied God’s Word more and and I will wish I had waited for the Lord in prayer.

Thankfully, the Bible says that God is going to wipe away all the tears from our eyes. The things that I regret will be wiped from my memory THEN. BUT NOW — I know I at least have a little more time to live in the here and now. I really don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow (Friday). But that’s not the tomorrow that really counts. I want to be busy for the Lord so that the ultimate tomorrow will be a happy time when I can present my rewards to my Lord Jesus Christ!

Instead of worrying about tomorrow — why not ask God to help you make TODAY count for Him! 

Have a great Thursday.

Guilty As Charged

“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, saying, ‘Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!'” (Acts 5:27-28)

I’ve heard this story told in many different forms.

A young man was the guest speaker at a retreat. As he concluded his message he said, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my own life and just how much I stand for Christ each day. I often wonder — if being a Christian were a crime, would there be enough evidence to convict me?”

That has always been a very powerful and probing question for me.

Just what evidence would people point to in my own life as sure-fire PROOF that I am a Christian? Every day, you and I need to take a good look at the way we live. Do we openly witness for Jesus each day? Does our behavior distinguish us from the world around us and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ? Are we helping lost people find salvation in the shed blood of Christ? Is there is a Christlikeness in our character that causes us to challenge the behavior of people who live lives contrary to God’s Word? 

In short — if being a Christian were a crime, would the foreman of the jury return a guilty verdict in your trial?

As far as the government officials in our text were concerned, it was a crime to follow Jesus. That’s why the disciples were arrested and put in prison. God delivered them and the enemies immediately came after them again and said, “Didn’t we tell you not to teach about Jesus? Look what you have done — you have filled our city with your doctrine!”

What kind of doctrine are you filling your city with? If the WORLD thinks you are doing a great job in your church — you probably aren’t doing a great job for the Kingdom. Jesus said that the world would hate us because it hated Him. If you are more concerned about pleasing people and making them feel “comfortable” with your brand of Christianity than showing them the transforming power of Christ — you probably have missed the point.

In case you are wondering or confused about THIS preacher — let me clear it up for you.

I stand firmly on the Word of God. It is inspired, infallible and inerrant. Everywhere it speaks — it speaks accurately and truthfully. I stand on Christ alone for my salvation. There is NO OTHER NAME whereby people must be saved. I stand on the fact that God loves ALL people and ALL people are savable if they will place their faith and trust in Christ alone for their salvation. I will not back down or back up or be backed over by those who want to compromise the clear teaching of Scripture. I’ll be polite but I will be firm. Sin is sin and God hates it. Your good works and your good intentions are worthless in their attempt to please God. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can TRANSFORM you into a NEW creature. It is not a make-over and it is not turning over a new leaf — it is a complete and total TRANSFORMATION and you become a NEW creature in Christ.

Unfollow me, unfriend me, call me intolerant and ignorant. Put me in jail. Cut off my head. I will not now or ever back up one step from preaching the Gospel of the grace of God to all who repent and believe.

There was no doubt about it — the early disciples were guilty as charged. I pray I receive the same verdict.

Have a  blessed day.

The Most Awesome Privilege In Life

“And Jesus said to him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?'” (Mark 10:51)

If you have known me for any length of time, you know the impact that the preaching and ministry of Dr. Charles Stanley has on me. I read everything he writes and I listen as he preaches. There is never a time when I don’t hear something especially directed at me from Dr. Stanley’s preaching.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Charles Stanley…

“The most powerful thing you can do — the most awesome privilege you have in this life — is to talk to the heavenly Father about anything in your heart.” (The Ultimate Conversation, p. 267)

Just let that sink in for a minute…Write it down somewhere so you can read it again and again and again. Prayer — “the most awesome privilege you have in this life.”

I love the story of Bartimaeus that you find in Mark 10. As I was reading through that story again, I was reminded of Dr. Stanley’s statement and I saw a couple of things in Bartimaeus’ story that have been helpful to me as I seek to have a more effective prayer life. Let me show you two quick lessons I learn from the story of Bartimaeus.

First — Bartimaeus put himself in the way of help. The Bible says that Bartimaeus stationed himself “by the road” (v. 46). That may seem to be an insignificant detail, but I have come to believe it is very important in this story. If we mean business when we pray, we should actively and purposefully put ourselves in a place where our full attention can be given to seeking the Lord. Bartimaeus knew that by positioning himself “by the road,” this was the place where most people passed going in or out of the city. Mark says that Jesus was leaving Jericho. This meant He would take the main road out and who was sitting there waiting — Bartimaeus!

The second thing that I find helpful in this story is this — Bartimaeus was a good LISTENER. The youth pastor at my church always tells his daughter to be a “good listener” as he takes her to preschool in the morning. That’s good advice for preschoolers AND for adults! In spite of all the noise around him, Bartimaeus heard someone say that Jesus was passing by. At that point, he wasn’t ashamed to cry out for Jesus to help him. He didn’t let anything stop him from crying out to Jesus — even though people were telling him to be quiet and to stop disturbing the peace.  Bartimaeus persisted against all the embarrassment and discouragements. He focused on Jesus as the only One who would help him.

Wouldn’t you agree with me that Bartimaeus displayed a strong faith? Absolutely he did.  And Jesus stopped and asked him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Bartimaeus got specific! He said, “I want to see!” Jesus said, “Go your way. Your faith has healed you” (v. 52). 

If you and I really want to have an effective prayer life and take advantage of “the most awesome privilege you have in this life,” we must be specific in our praying. We can’t pray a “shotgun” prayer and hope we hit the target with a stray shot. We must use a rifle. We need to pray with a definite and specific target in mind. We need to be willing to get down to business with the Lord and get specific about what we want Him to do for us.

Remember the words to one my favorite hymns…

“What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer.”

Have a great Tuesday.

 

None More Faithful

“And behold, some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.” (Luke 13:30)

I’ll be the first to admit that I have very limited knowledge. And that limited knowledge keeps me from being able to tell who is truly great in the Kingdom of God. That’s probably a good thing. I’m convinced that only God is worthy to give that special commendation. The things that I think might deserve recognition may be done with the wrong motivation and instead deserve to be burned up in the fire of trial. Only God is able to tell if what I do is worthy of any eternal acclaim.

I was reading this morning about St. Francis of Assisi. One day he was hoeing his garden. A friend passing by asked St. Francis what he would id if he were suddenly to learn that he was to die at sunset that day. St. Francis said, “I would finish hoeing my garden.”

Martin Luther said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my little apple tree and pay my debts.”

On this Monday morning (2/24/14), I was again reminded by God that my job is simply to be FAITHFUL. Faithfulness is about doing the job you’ve been given with perseverance and humility. I need to be reminded from time to time that I don’t do what I do in order to gain the acclaim of the world. I’m convinced that many things — especially things done in the name of “ministry” – may not make it into the Kingdom of God.

Mary Sanders wrote, “We shall one day be thrilled as we behold the great honors bestowed upon the famous heroes and heroines of the Bible. But perhaps we shall be even more amazed to see the sizable rewards awaiting the lowly, unsung believers who stood by in times of need, ever ready to do their duty and proffer a ‘cup of cold water’ in Jesus’ name.”

When I was in elementary school — Woodland-Olney Elementary in Woodland, NC — my fourth grade teacher was Mrs. Lala Hornok. The one thing I remember from her class was she taught me about a very special geyser in Yellowstone National Park. It is called Old Faithful. I learned that it got its name because it follows a dependable time schedule. Once every 65 minutes, it shoots a stream of boiling water over one hundred and seventy feet into the air.

“That’s great Pastor Keith but we all learned about Old Faithful at some point in our educational endeavors. What’s the point?”

Did you know that Old Faithful is NOT the largest geyser in the world? Did you know that there are many geysers that have hotter water than Old Faithful? But here is the most important fact…there are no geysers in the world that are more FAITHFUL than Old Faithful. 

“Ohhhhh! Now I see what you are trying to do, Pastor. Good point.”

Thanks. My prayer today is that I will live my as as a faithful servant for Christ rather than a famous nobody whose fame fades away after he is gone. There are certainly better preachers than me — but I pray there will be none more faithful than me! 

I pray that for you today as well. There may be better ___________________ than you — but I pray there will be none more faithful than you!

Have a great Monday.

Responding to God’s Word

“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)

Dr. Glen Wheeler says that the Russian dictionary defines the Bible as “a collection of fantastic legends without scientific support. It is full of dark hints, historical mistakes, and contradictions. It serves as a factor for gaining power and subjugating unknowing nations.”

When I read that, I remembered that almost 30 years ago, I was told that the Bible could not be trusted and that most of what the Bible says about Jesus Christ was untrue. I was told that the creation story, the story of Noah’s flood, and the Tower of Babel along with most of the other Old Testament stories were fables. I was told that the doctrine of the Virgin Birth was not necessary and that the exclusivity of the Gospel was a myth.

“WOW Pastor Keith — did you study in a atheist school?”

Nope — I studied in Baptist colleges in North Carolina and a Southern Baptist Seminary. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, many of the professors in our colleges and seminaries had a very low view of the Scripture. FORTUNATELY — the Holy Spirit protected me from that garbage and only helped confirm the trustworthiness of the Bible in my own heart and ministry. There were many students who went to school with me however who bought the “liberal line” that the Bible can’t be trusted and either quit the ministry or are involved in churches that barely mention the exclusive message of redemption found in the Scripture.

It is said that Martin Luther wanted to make a lasting contribution to Christendom. He wanted to leave a Bible people could read and understand and a hymnal from which they could sing. Luther said, “Let them loose. The flame will spread on its own.”

How do YOU relate to the Word of God? How do YOU respond when God’s Word is preached? After having preached now for more than 30 years, I know that every time I preach there are those who hear and accept God’s Word and there are those who reject it. Most of the time, the acceptance of God’s Word is directly related to the amount of sacrifice that is required of us. If what the preacher says especially hits hard or threatens to cost us time, money or effort — we become defensive and it just rolls off us like water on a duck’s back. There have literally been times in my ministry when people came out and said, “Pastor Keith, that was a wonderful sermon today. I’m so glad that so-and-so was here today. THEY really needed to hear that!”

What about YOU? When you go to church, do you go expecting God to speak to YOU through His Word?

I don’t know who taught me this — I think it was Dr. Warren Weirsbe — but there are three ways to respond to God’s Word when you hear it.

First — you could FORSAKE it. You don’t like what it says, so you just don’t do it. Maybe you turn your back on it and just put it out of your mind.

Second — you could FORGET it. You are not a deliberate rebel, but you get so busy that you allow the Word of God to be crowded out of your life. You’ve got so many other things going on.

Third — you can FEAR it. I’m not talking about being scared of it. I’m talking about a special reverence for God’s Word. You hear it and it gets a hold on your life. You finally begin to see that you are dealing with eternal matters. There truly is a Heaven to be gained and a Hell to be shunned.

James reminds us in our verse today to humbly receive the implanted word. Later on (James 1:22), he tells us that we should be doers of the word and not merely hearers. I challenge you to find a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching church this week and attend. As you listen to the pastor as he preaches — ask God to help you receive the Word — ALL of it — and then be obedient to it. Don’t forsake it or forget it — FEAR (reverence) it! It will make an eternal difference in your life.

Have a great Thursday.

Thankful for God’s Protection

“For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright. He is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice, and He preserves the way of His godly ones.” (Proverbs 2:6-8)

Argentinean tennis star Guillermo Vilas was once interviewed by Sports Illustrated. In that interview he made a statement that I think we can all relate to on some level. Vilas said, “Fervently I think that many times one feels oneself to be secure and suddenly one’s world falls down like a pack of cards in a matter of seconds.”

I got up this morning and the Holy Spirit reminded me that I should be thankful for God’s proaction — even when trouble comes! Aren’t you glad God protects us?

The Bible is filled with verses that bear out that fact. For example…

“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” (Psalm 37:23)

“Haven’t You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.” (Job 1:10)

“He protects His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them in the fold of His garment. He gently leads those that are nursing.” (Isaiah 40:11)

“Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blameless and with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 24-25)

Here’s an illustration of how God protects His children. 

Charles Wesley was conducting one of his many open-air meetings — this one near Killyleagh, Ireland. During the course of the meetings, a number of people took exception to his preaching and they actually assaulted Wesley. Charles Wesley had to run for his life!

He found refuge in a nearby farmhouse. Jane Moore, the wife of the farmer, hid Wesley in the milk house. Wesley had barely gotten inside when the mob rushed up. Mrs. Moore was able to divert their attention by preparing refreshments. People really haven’t changed much have they? Fix some food and you can easily divert our attention. I bet she served BACON! Don’t you just LOVE bacon? I think bacon makes everything better.

“PASTOR…weren’t you telling me about Charles Wesley?”

Oh yes, I was! I got diverted.

Anyway, Mrs. Moore knew that the refreshments wouldn’t stop that mob for long. She figured after their snack, they would start to search the property and would find Wesley in the milk house. She asked the crowd to excuse her while she grabbed drinks for everyone and she slipped off to the milk house where Wesley was hiding. 

She told Wesley to go out through the rear window and hide in the hedges. He got through the window and found a little spring flowing beside the hedge. He gathered some overhanging branches and formed a perfect hiding place and a safe retreat until the mob left.

While he was waiting for his attackers to give up the search, Wesley pulled a pencil and paper from his pocket and wrote these words…

“Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly,
While the nearer waters roll, while the tempest still is high;
Hide me, O my Savior, hide, till the storm of life is past;
Safe into the haven guide; O receive my soul at last.”

I’m thankful today that God is my shield and that He protects me through His kind and gracious providence!

Have a great Wednesday.

Don’t Be Afraid…

“we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.” (II Corinthians 5:8)

What happens to a person immediately after they die?

Does it frighten you to think about that? I’ve known many people (including some who claim to be Christians) who have said to me, “Pastor Keith, I’m afraid to die. I just don’t know what’s on the other side.”

Many people attempt to deal with death through humor.

One of my favorite epitaphs says…

Here lies the bones of Mary Jones
For her life had no terrors;
She lived an old maid
She died an old maid
No runs, no hits
No errors.

Or how about this story?

I heard about an old lady who went to a tombstone-cutter’s office to order a stone for her husband’s grave. After explaining that all she wanted was a small stone with no frills, she told him to put the words, “To My Husband,” in a suitable place. When the stone was delivered she saw, to her horror, this inscription:

“To My Husband —
In a Suitable Place.”

C.S. Lewis said, “Every human is in the process of becoming a noble being; noble beyond imagination. Or else, alas, a vile being beyond redemption.”

A great little book that you should get and have in your library is “One Minute After You Die,” by Dr. Erwin Lutzer. In that book he says, “One minute after you slip behind the parted curtain, you will either be enjoying a personal welcome from Christ or catching your first glimpse of gloom as you have never known it. Either way, your future will be irrevocably fixed and eternally unchangeable.”

If you are a Christian — and let me define what that means. In today’s world, there are a lot of different ideas on what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is one who understand that salvation from sin is by the GRACE OF GOD alone, through FAITH alone, in JESUS CHRIST alone. A Christian has confessed and repented of their sin and accepted that the payment for that sin is made solely by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross where He died as our substitute. Ephesians 2:8-9 is very clear — “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from work, so that no one can boast.”

If you are a Christian, the Bible makes it very plain what happens “on the other side.” Paul said in our verse for today that “to be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord.” In other words…I am not afraid of death. When I die — because of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ — I will be at home in the presence of my Savior and Master. It really doesn’t matter what else happens or what it looks like. All that matters is that I will be with Jesus. That truth should serve as a great encouragement to every believer.

Heaven’s greatest joy will be to see Jesus Christ face to face.

My favorite hymn is entitled “Face to Face with Christ.” It was written in the 1890’s by a homemaker and mother of five children in Portland, Oregon. Her name was Carrie Elizabeth Breck. 

Face to face with Christ my Savior,
Face to face what will it be
When with rapture I behold Him,
Jesus Christ who died for me?

Only faintly now I see Him,
With the darkling, veil between;
But a blessed a day is coming
When His glory shall be seen.

What rejoicing in His presence
When are banished grief and pain;
When the crooked ways are straightened
And the dark things shall be plain.

Face to face I shall behold Him
Far beyond the starry sky;
Face to face in all His glory,
I shall see Him by and by!

If you are reading this today and you are NOT saved — death probably is fearful for you. But my friend — it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to have peace about your future residence — I pray that you will confess your sins, repent and give your heart to Jesus today. On the authority of God’s Word, I know that He will secure a reservation in Heaven for you that is unimaginable!

I look forward to seeing you ALL in Heaven one day!

Have a great Tuesday.

Help Is On the Way

“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him. On the next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper sand said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.'” (Luke 10:33-35)

This is the final devotion on the Good Samaritan. Last week, you will recall that we learned that life is risky and bad things happen to EVERYBODY! We considered the well-known fact that LIFE IS NOT FAIR. And we saw how we might be down but we don’t have to be out. I think it’s time for a little good news — what do you say?

I love this story because it ends good! (Don’t write — I know that is bad grammar. The story ends well, but I think it’s even better than that — it ends GOOD!) We like our stories to end “happily ever after.” As we think about the ending to this story, I want you to hit the pause button right here and think about this…remember a time when unexpected aid came your way. Who has been a Good Samaritan for you along your journey? Even more importantly, for whom have you been a Good Samaritan?

Here’s a lesson I have learned from observing people now for over 30 years. Help often comes from the most unlikely sources. People most often treat others the way they have been treated. If a child is hit, he becomes a hitter. An abused person often becomes an abuser. A loved person has learned to treat others with love.

You have heard that the Samaritans were a hated race. They were the “mixed breeds” of the Jewish culture. Strongly religious Jews would take every measure to avoid a Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans were the Hatfields and McCoys of their day. Considering that this good Samaritan, along with his kin-folks, had been treated by Jews with such hatred — what kind of response would you expect from Him? Would you expect him to stop and take care of the wounded Jew? If we are honest, we would expect the Samaritan to act no differently than the Priest or Levite.

But the Samaritan didn’t walk on by. In fact, he went well beyond the call of duty. He dressed the wounds, provided lodging and medical care, and covered the expenses of the wounded man during his recovery. The Samaritan did all of this for a total stranger who probably hated Samaritans. Of the characters in this story, the Samaritan is the least likely to be compassionate.

People never cease to amaze me. From one I expect so much and see so little. From another I expect so little and receive so much. None of us are good judges of the hearts of people. We adopt prejudices about others and place them into stereotypes in which they do not fit. When you are wounded, your help may come from those of whom you would least expect it.

Here’s the BEST news! Jesus is so much like that Good Samaritan. Just as the Samaritan was hated — Jesus was hated. Some hated Jesus so much their blood began to boil merely at the mention of His name. Many people had a consuming hatred for Jesus. Like the Samaritan, Jesus appeared the “least likely to be of any assistance.” He didn’t have an influential position, no wealth, no prestigious family. When people were encouraged to go to Him for help they must have thought, “what could He ever do for me?”

Yet in spite of the fact that He was hated and He had no worldly possessions to offer, Jesus went the second mile for hurting humanity. Jesus looked for people who were naked and half dead on the side of isolated roads, and He went the second mile to help them. 

Maybe you are like the hurting man in the story. Life has pulled the rug out from under your feet. Don’t give up — the Good Samaritan is on the way!

Down but Not Out

“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him, and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34)

I heard about a pastor who asked one of the elderly ladies in his church how she was. She said, “Pastor, my knees are so bad I can hardly walk. My back is so bad I can barely sit up. My eyes are so bad I can scarcely see. My ears are so bad I can hardly hear. But Pastor…THANK GOD I can still drive!”

She was down — but not out!

In the part of the story of the Good Samaritan that we look at today, I see the importance of perseverance. My guess is that there are many of you who are reading this today who simply need a word of encouragement. You may be down and out and I pray that what you discover here will encourage you to persevere.

Throughout my life and ministry I have discovered that often when we are hurting, we tend to overestimate the extent of our wounds. I’ve been absolutely sure, on several occasions, that I was going to die from nothing more than a common cold. I have the lowest pain threshold of any person I know. Pain causes me to magnify my misery and highlight the danger.

I find that many times in my life I have felt like the mechanic who gave the diagnosis to his customer. “First,” he said, “here’s the good news; you’re lucky to be alive!”

I’ve also learned through life experiences that acknowledging the fact that we overestimate our wounds is much easier to say when we are NOT hurting. It is much easier for friends NOT IN OUR SHOES to say, “Suck it up. It’s not all that bad.” They may be right, but our pain and hurt often blinds us to that truth.

Imagine the preacher or the deacon or even the Good Samaritan saying to the wounded man, “Be tough, Brother. Don’t cry. You’re not hurt that badly. You’ll be better in a few days and you will forget all about today’s troubles.”

I want to gently suggest to you that perhaps you have overestimated your wounds today. Perhaps, looking from the outside, your marriage isn’t as far gone as you think, your job isn’t as bad as you think, and your wound isn’t as deep as you think. When we are hurting, we should seek to concentrate on the possibilities, not the problems. That’s difficult to do when you’ve just been robbed and you are lying naked and half dead on the side of the road.

That’s why we need FAITH. The Bible defines faith this way — “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). FAITH is the ability to see that, even though you’ve been wounded and the hurt is strong, there is going to be a better tomorrow.

Please don’t think I’m advocating a purely “positive thinking” approach to life’s problems. I know better than that. I know that the only way we will have a better tomorrow is to have faith in CHRIST. Our faith is not just faith in faith — it is faith in the person of God’s Son.

Perhaps the real tragedy in life is never getting hurt. Getting hurt happens to everyone and is often not the result of any choice we have made. The real tragedy is when you QUIT. From my earliest days, I remember being told — “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” While those words don’t come from the Bible, they certainly agree with Biblical teachings. Let me illustrate with a few verses that you should always have handy when hurt shows us.

“But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12)

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

I say — shame on people who have caused Christians to have the reputation of being negative, backwards and powerless. Christianity is oriented toward the possibilities — not the problems!

One of the things I’ve never understood is people who stop coming to church when they have a problem. You say something about it and they reply, “Well, Pastor Keith, we’ve just got so many problems in our family right now, we just can’t come to church.”

That’s ridiculous! Those are the times when you NEED to be in church — surrounded by Christians who will pray with and for you!

Learn this lesson from the wounded man. You might be down this morning, but that doesn’t mean you have to be out! Hang in there — the preacher and the deacon may pass you by — but God will send a Good Samaritan if you will hold on to your faith in God. Endure to the victory!

Have a great Wednesday. If you are in the path of this monster southern storm — please be safe. If you do not absolutely have to be out in it — don’t! 

But That’s Not FAIR!

“And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.” (Luke 10:31-32)

Guess what?

“Really? We are going to start with riddles today?”

Just play along…Guess what?

“OK — what?”

LIFE IS NOT FAIR!

“I’m going to stop reading your blog. You don’t have the gift of encouragement, do you?”

Keep reading…I’m going to help you learn a very important lesson today.

“Fair” is a word that we learn as children. As children — we insist upon fair — especially when fair benefits us personally. When something wasn’t “fair” — I quickly ran and told my momma or daddy, or my teacher or whoever happened to be in charge. Fairness is one of the great virtues of life our human nature seems to insist upon.

And yet I repeat — LIFE IS NOT FAIR!

If life were fair, every man would be tall, dark and handsome. He would have great athletic ability. He would be smart and he would be a super leader. If life were fair, every woman would be sophisticated, beautiful and intelligent. She would carry herself gracefully and have the etiquette of Emily Post.

But since life is NOT fair, few of us have all those traits.

We started to study the story of the Good Samaritan yesterday. As you recall, I reminded you that life is risky business. As we continue in our story today, we find that as the wounded man lay there, he heard the priest coming. I imagine at this point, his attitude improved greatly. He may have looked up and saw the priestly robes and thought — “Today is my lucky day. Here comes the preacher! I’m sure he will stop and help.” And what the did the preacher do? He walked right on by the wounded man.

But don’t give up just yet! Right behind the preacher came the deacon (the Levite). Once again, the wounded man must have thought, “Here comes one of the deacons. He is a man of great religious zeal. Surely he will stop and help me.” But, once again, his heart sank as the deacon walked on by. 

At this point, I imagine the wounded man probably must have thought — “It’s just like I figured. Life’s not fair. If those two won’t help me, who in the world will?”

When we are hurting, we naturally expect help from other people. I remember when Danielle and Dustin were little. They always expected me or Edna to “kiss it and make it better.” That was pretty easy when they were toddlers — it has become much harder as they have gotten older. 

A friend expects his buddy to lend a helping hand. And yet, if you have ever been hurt or wounded, you have probably realized that some people that you expected to help you didn’t.

“I’m beginning to see your point Pastor Keith. At some point there comes a time in my life when momma and daddy can’t make the hurt go away. There are times when I have needs that my best friends just can’t meet. My question is — WHAT THEN?”

I’m so glad you asked. I’ve got a  suggestion for you.

Don’t become bitter. Sometimes people become bitter when the one from whom they expected help didn’t come through with that help. I’m not suggesting that the preacher or the deacon (the priest and the Levite) shouldn’t have helped — the absolutely should have! But before we pass judgment on them, can you think of a time in your life when you knew you should have offered a helping hand — but you didn’t? If I am completely honest — I know I can.

Many people become bitter toward their pastor or their Sunday school class or the church as a whole because in a time of need, they didn’t help the way they thought they should have. But when someone should help and doesn’t — don’t give in to the natural response to “get even.” That’s sinful! That wounded man could have lived the rest of his life consumed with one driving passion — get back at that Priest and that Levite! When revenge becomes your motivation, you live the rest of your life bitter. You lose the joy of your Christian life.

Remember this…the only person with whom you EVER need to get even is the one who has helped you! I wonder if the wounded man ever tried to get even with the Good Samaritan. Too often, when someone does something for us that we could never repay, we don’t even try.

Perhaps you are the one who has been wounded. Maybe the people you thought would help haven’t been around. Don’t become bitter. Use this as a time to learn a lesson in what NOT to do. Ask God to give you eyes to see and a heart to sense the needs of others around you so that instead of passing by on the other side — you will jump right in and help. Look around you today. There are plenty of hurting people who could use a laugh or a shoulder to cry on. Maybe a phone call or an email would be appropriate just to let them know you are praying for them and want to help if you can.

Have a great Tuesday. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about being DOWN but not OUT!