Eagles (Part 2)

“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)

In part 1 of this devotion, I compared the magnificent eagle with an annoying crow.

By the way…you don’t need to email me and taut the value of crows. I don’t like them. You can like them if you want to, but they annoy me. It is a matter of personal preference. We can still be friends…

There are a few more things I want to share with you today about the eagle. As I consider these characteristics, I understand why we are told in the Scripture to be like the eagle.

Eagles have excellent eyes. Their eyes are very strong and they are able to see long distances. As an eagle flies to the heights, I am told that he can see a rabbit 2 miles away!

I have a similar ability. I can see the HOT NOW sign at Krispy Kreme from a couple of miles away.

God makes our lives like the eagle. He gives us vicious of our days and our future and of His will for us. We can lift up our eyes to the everlasting hills and see the New Jerusalem and our King seated on His throne. God gives His people the ability to see the world through His eyes. We see sin as He sees it. We also see goodness, love, mercy, grace and truth as He sees it. We see the opportunities that He places in our lives. I pray God gives me eagle eyes!

The eagle also seems to have an innate desire to be free. Eagles never flock. They find the tallest trees in the woods, the top crag of the mountain. Pairs of eagles live in solitude. The eagle is an independent creature and I can’t imagine the eagle would be happy in a cage.

This is a parable to me of my relationship with Jesus Christ. As a believer, I was born to stand alone before God. My problem is SIN. Sin enslaves me and makes me unable to stand before God. However when I surrender my life to God through His Son Jesus Christ…I am able to truly be free.

Jesus said, “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

My greatest freedom came the day I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and allowed Him to rule and reign in me. I am a slave to Christ. He lives His life in me and I am being conformed to His image so that one day, I can stand again before God…not in my own abilities but in the grace and mercy of the One who died for me.

Finally, eagles are known to live about 120 years. Every year, the eagle sheds some of its feathers and has the appearance of youth. Scientists say that when the eagle is 100 years old, he sheds all of his feathers and fresh ones come so that he looks completely young again.

God doesn’t promise that you and I will live for 120 years and still look like we are 29, but He does promise to renew our strength like that of our youth. By the Holy Spirit’s power, God restores and revives our lives and returns us to the days of our youth.

Paul said it this way in II Corinthians. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (II Cor. 4:16)

I don’t possess perpetual youth…but I do possess immortality. Because Jesus lives…I also live. Victor Hugo said, “Winter may be upon my head, but the eternal springtime is in my heart.”

As you and I live for Christ every day, He promises to renew our strength for service. When we wait upon the Lord (literally yielding ourselves fully and faithfully to Him)…He promises to renew us like the eagle.

Have a great day.

Eagles or Crows. ?

“but those who trust in the Lord will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31)

I’m not a huge fan of crows. There I said it…Crows annoy me. Crows and Mockingbirds are my least favorite birds. The Bible never tells us to be like a crow. But 32 times in the Bible, eagles are mentioned. And in our verse today, God promises that those who yield their lives to God shall renew their strength and mount up with wings like eagles.

Think of the differences between crows and eagles.

Crows have limited vision. You normally see crows on rooftops and on the ground. Eagles soar in the skies where they see the “big picture.”

Have you ever seen a crow fly? It flaps its wins hard in order to fly. Not so with an eagle. The eagle just spreads its wings and uses the wind currents to move.

A crow is a scavenger. It digs through the trash and garbage for food. An eagle looks for fresh food and hunts fresh meat.

Have I made my point? God never intended for me and you to act like a crow. We were meant to be eagles. Let me share just a few more habits of the eagle that I believe will encourage you today.

The eagle builds its nest in the high places. Job 39:27-28 says, “Does the eagle soar at your command and make its nest on high? It lives on a cliff where it spends the night; its stronghold is on a rocky crag.”

There is greater security in those high places. The same is true for the Christian. God promises to set us on the high places. Psalm 61:2 says, “I will call to You from the ends of the earth when my heart is without strength. Lead me to a rock that is high above me.” God promises to put our feet on the rock of security, the rock of assurance and the rock of safety. That Rock is Jesus Christ!

Another habit of the eagle that is worth noting involves its ability to rise above the storms of life. As I mentioned earlier, the eagle takes advantage of the wind to soar. The eagle gets above the fog, the mist and the clouds.

According to the most recent figures from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, someone in this country dies by suicide ever 12.8 minutes. You and I know people who feel that life is a prison sentence. They have lost sight of the stars. Maybe you are one of those people who feel that way today. If only you would surrender your life to Christ, you could rise above the storms and find the peace of God that passes all understanding.

King David dealt with the pressures of life. Read I Samuel 30. David and his men came to Ziklag and found it burned to the ground. Amalekite outlaws had kidnapped all the women and enslaved everyone from the youngest to the oldest. To make matters worse, David’s own soldiers started to blame him for the situation.

What did David do? I Samuel 30:6 says, “But David found strength in the Lord his God.”

God renewed David’s strength. He reorganized his men, went out to battle, conquered the Amalekites and was victorious over all. David remembered that his strength came from God and he rose above the storm.

The final characteristic of an eagle I want to mention involves how momma eagle takes care of her babies. I found it very interesting to learn that momma and daddy eagle live together beside their nest and they are devoted to one another.

Deuteronomy 32:11 says, “He watches over His nest like an eagle and hovers over HIs young; He spreads His wings, catches him, and lifts him up on His pinions.” Moses compares the way God takes care of us to the way the eagle takes care of her babies.

I read that when it is time to learn to fly, momma eagle pushes the baby out of the nest on top of a cliff. As that little one flies downward, if he can’t fly, momma eagle swoops down and spreads out her wings under the little one and bears it up on her wings so it won’t die on the rocks below.

I’ve been a Christian for 44 years. In that time, I have discovered that God often tests me. He allows me to go through difficulties in order to make me more like His Son but He NEVER deserts or leaves me. In Exodus 19:4, God speaks to the children of Israel. He recalls how He has cared for them through the wilderness wandering. He says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I cared you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me.”

I can look back over my life and my ministry and I can testify that there are many, many times when God has swooped down and caught me on His wings in order to keep me from crashing on the rocks below. As I’ve traveled through this life, I’m often tired or hungry or thirsty in my journey with Him…and HE IS ALWAYS FAITHFUL. He bears me up on His wings and renews my strength.

There are a few more things I have learned about eagles. I’ll share those with you tomorrow. Today…thank God that He renews our strength as we commit ourselves completely to Him.

Have a great day.

It’s a Terrible Trap

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” (Proverbs 29:25)

One day, a father and his son walked their mule to the marketplace. As they walked alongside the mule, they passed a group of people who criticized them for walking instead of riding the mule. So the father got on and the son walked. Then they passed another group of people who criticized the father for riding while making his son walk. Hearing these complaints, the father got off the mule and the son got on. Then they passed another group of people who criticized the son for being so disrespectful, riding in comfort and making his father walk. So they both got on the mule. Then they passed another group of people who criticized them for working that poor mule so hard.

“WOW Pastor. What a story. What’s the point?

The point is that if you live to please other people, you will either lose your mule or you will lose your mind!

As believers, we have been instructed that our walk in this world is to be pleasing to God…not man. And the first sign that you are walking in the right way is that you are more concerned about pleasing God than you are about pleasing people.

I’ve been at this ministry thing now for over 30 years. I spent some of my first years trying to make sure EVERYBODY was happy with me. It never worked. No matter what you do, what decision you make, which path you choose…somebody will always be around to leave poop on your porch.

Really…they really will leave poop on your porch! It has happened to me.

Here’s a good verse for you to memorize. It’s Ephesians 2:10.

“For we are His creation, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”

We know that we are saved by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Make sure you are clear on this one. OUR WORKS DO NOT IN ANY WAY SAVE US. Works are not the ROOT of our salvation, but they sure are the FRUIT of our salvation. If we are going to live a life pleasing to God, we will do things that please Him. We will seek in every decision we make to bring glory to God through our actions.

Will everybody approve? NOPE…In fact, most of the world won’t approve and they will quickly give their opinion on what you should do or what you should have done. Pay no attention…It’s a trap of the devil.

You seek to please God in all you do. I’ve learned I can’t afford to lose my mind…there is not enough extra there to spare! Be pleasing to the Lord…He’s the One we ultimately will answer to.

Have a great day.

Persistant Forgiveness

“Be on your guard. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and comes back to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about this passage of Scripture is the response of the apostles after Jesus gave this particular teaching. The only thing they could say in response to this was, “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

Here’s a truth I have learned after 52 trips around the sun. ALL human beings are imperfect. We sin against God, ourselves and others. I’m confronted almost on a daily basis with problems that have come from parents mistreating their children or children mistreating their parents. Married couples mistreat each other. Siblings mistreat each other. Friends mistreat friends. All members of the family circle stand in need of practicing what I call PERSISTENT FORGIVENESS.

How do you deal with mistreatment?

I suppose you could resort to retaliation. You can be vindictive, and you can seek to secure revenge. You can strike out and return evil for evil, blow for blow, contempt for contempt and insult for insult.

Some folks simply suppress their hostility. It just smolders inside. Suppression will eventually create a volcanic explosion. It will contribute to an attitude of hate that will poison your whole system and create a cancer within your mind and emotions.

I’ve known many people who retreat into self-pity (the victim mode) when mistreated. This does nothing but lead to discouragement, despair and depression which hinders our witness for the Lord.

“Well, OK then Pastor. What SHOULD I do when I’m mistreated?”

Thanks for asking. I think we should practice PERSISTENT FORGIVENESS as defined by Jesus.

As Jesus hung on the cross, He prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). What is the result of this kind of forgiveness in our lives?

When I forgive as taught by Jesus, I give up the right to retaliate. The best Biblical example of this is seen in the life of Joseph (Genesis 50:15-21). After revealing himself to his brothers who had done such evil to him, Joseph said, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You planned evil against me; God planned it for good to bring about the present result — the survival of many people.” (Genesis 50:19-20)

When I truly practice the JESUS kind of forgiveness, I make a deliberate decision not to harbor hostility toward the one who hurt me. I make a deliberate decision to return good for evil, to restore a broken relationship, and to reestablish shattered fellowship.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m suggesting. Forgiveness and forgetfulness are NOT the same thing. Forgiveness must be repeated over and over every time the injury is remembered. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus said, “I tell you, not as many as seven,’ Jesus said to him, ‘but 70 times seven.”

I think that Jesus insists on the repetition of forgiveness to insure you and me against the destructive effects that are certain to come toward the person who refuses to practice forgiveness.

I saw a cartoon several years ago which showed an exasperated father saying to his prodigal son, “Son…this is the FOURTH TIME we’ve killed the fatted calf.”

Isn’t that what God does in my life over and over? Of course it is. Our practice of forgiving others is based on the fact that we have been forgiven by God. Ephesians 4:32 says, “And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.”

I’m certainly not suggesting this is easy…it’s not! But somehow in the grace of God, if we will think about the tremendous price Jesus paid so that I might experience forgiveness, God will enable me to forgive those who have been unkind and may have brought injury into my heart and life. Besides…NOTHING anybody has ever done to me is as bad as what my sin did to Jesus.

To be forgiving is not the price I pay for the privilege of being forgiven…it is actually a condition I must meet in order to receive forgiveness. Let’s ask God to give us the grace to be forgiving toward all who have injured us in order that we might fully experience the joy of His forgiveness toward us.

Have a great day.

Whatever Happened to Sin? (Pt. 2)

“And Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man.'” (II Samuel 12:7)

Yesterday, we talked about the fact that sin no longer is a concept or word many people use in today’s world. We live in a time when everything is true and nothing is wrong. We are reaping the consequences of years of relativism and liberalism.

In our devotion yesterday, I spent time addressing the question “whatever happened to the REALITY of sin?”. I know that sin is a reality from observation, experience and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

There are two other points I want to make in relation to this question of whatever happened to sin. As I look at the world in which I live, I continually ask myself…

Whatever happened to REGRET over sin?

Nathan confronted David with the reality of his sin. When David acknowledged the reality of his sin, he experienced deep regret. Anytime a person confronts sin seriously, profound regret will result.

Too many preachers and churches today do everything they can to keep people from feeling any regret. Popular motivational speaker Joel Osteen says, “As long as you’re living in regret, focused on the negative things of the past, it’s going to keep you from the bright future God has in store.”

On one hand, Osteen is has a point. God doesn’t desire that we live in a constant state of regret. You cannot continually live in the past but when you and I see sin as God sees it, regret is a natural result. Regret comes because sin hurts God. God has a high intention for us and when we fail to live in accordance with God’s will, God is hurt. Sin wounds the heart of God.

Regret comes because sin destroys us. God allows people the privilege of either accepting or rejecting Him. People can rebel against God and destroy themselves. We can look at numerous examples in the Bible to see how sin destroys people. Samson knew the regret of self-destruction.

Read Psalm 51 and see how David regretted his sin. What we need in our world and in our churches today is a genuine sorrow over our sin.

When we experience regret over our sin, then comes the last thing — and perhaps the most important thing. We call it REPENTANCE.

David saw the reality of his rebellion against God. It brought profound regret to him, but Godly sorrow led him to repentance. He repented and committed his life afresh and anew to the Lord.

When was the last time you went to church and heard a pastor talk about the need for repentance? When you call people to repent, you are calling them to acknowledge the reality of PERSONAL sin, calling them to a sense of regret for that sin and then a conscious choice to turn to God as the only One who can forgive sin.

Nathan was God’s appointed prophet to call David to turn in God’s direction. The job of the Old Testament prophets was to turn people to God. Then Jesus came preaching a message of repentance. We need preachers today who will call people to acknowledge their sin and turn from that sin toward God.

You see, repentance does NOT mean simply to acknowledge your rebellion and to regret it. Repentance requires that you change your mind to the extent that you will change directions. It means to turn from selfishness to full commitment to the Lord.

When David repented, his life moved in a new direction and took on new meaning and significance. Repentance removes the guilt of sin and affords us a new life in Christ.

If you have ever driven across the 26-mile bridge over Lake Pontchartrain in Louisiana, you know that at various spots along the way there are crossovers called “turn-a-rounds.” As you travel across that bridge there are places where you can turn around and go in the opposite direction. Repentance allows us to do the same. God allows us to turn around by repenting.

The problem we face in the modern church is because we don’t believe anything is a sin, then we don’t have anything to repent of. Therefore the altars of our churches are empty and we are having little impact on the world in which we live. We must once again remind people of the REALITY of sin. We must pray for the Holy Spirit to cause us to experience serious REGRET for our sin. We must encourage people to REPENT of sin and get right with God.

Do you need to turn around today and repent of YOUR sin and move in God’s direction. I’m glad God is there having provided us a way to be restored in our relationship with Him. It comes through faith in Christ alone and repentance of sin.

Have a great day.

Whatever Happened to Sin?

“And Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man.” (II Samuel 12:7)

Karl Menninger is a name associated with the practice of psychiatry. Through the years, Dr. Menninger attempted to analyze and solve world problems with the application of psychiatry. I suppose his most famous book was Whatever Became of Sin? — a book in which he looked into the worldwide problem of gloom, apprehension, depression, and discouragement. His book traces many of these results to the problem of sin. Menninger called for a universal recognition of sin as a prevention against self-destruction. By the way, Menninger’s book was written in 1973. Dr. Menninger died in 1990. I wonder what his book would look like TODAY…

The word sin has all but disappeared from our vocabulary. Even “Christians” are hesitant to use the word because it may “offend” people. In our attempt to be all things to all people, the church has lost it’s ability to prophetically speak to our culture. And since we no longer use the word sin, we are unable to help people deal with the guilt that remains in their hearts and minds because of their sin.

As I continue to watch the horror of the Planned Parenthood videos unfold, I am convinced more than ever that we need to take a good, hard, long look again at the idea of sin.

Sin is rebellion against God. Sin creates estrangement from a loving God. We often hear people talk about sin meaning “missing the mark.” While that’s true, the illustration often used to describe it is lacking. You’ve heard preachers talk about God’s standard being like a target we are all shooting at. Some people hit the target wide right, others wide left, but nobody hits the bullseye. They say that’s what it means to “miss the mark.” THAT IS INCORRECT.

There is a target that God has established. But rather than missing it right or left, up or down — we don’t even come anywhere NEAR the target. Our shots not only miss the target, they don’t get anywhere close to it. SIN is reprehensible to God and it is nowhere near His presence. We give ourselves too much credit when we think we are just “a little off.” Remember, you and I are not sinners because we sin…we sin because we are sinners.

Because we have convinced ourselves and others that sin is bad — just not too bad, we now think sin is not important in the discussion. That’s why I stick with the Bible. Modern theology and hipster pastors seem to be more interested in drawing a crowd than making disciples. So, let’s turn back to the Scripture and set our foundation.

Almost any story in the Bible could furnish a text for the subject of sin. The incident of David’s sin against God gives me three quick thoughts that I hope will help you in your study of the subject.

We’ve lost the REALITY of sin. Months after David’s sin against God (adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed), David was suffering from the torment of guilt. Evidently he would not face the reality of sin in his life. Nathan finally confronted him and said, “YOU are the man!”

People today experience tremendous guilt problems in their lives because they are unwilling to face the reality of their sin. We have evaded it and rationalized it, but we haven’t admitted that sin truly exists.

“Well, Pastor…how do you KNOW sin is a reality?”

Good question…I know from OBSERVATION. You only have to watch 30 seconds of TV news or look at the headline on your favorite news website to see the reality of a rebellion against God. The political scandals, the atrocious crimes against people, the abuse of property testify to the reality of sin. The last time I checked (which was today), sin was rampant. Police officers abound, we have jails to incarcerate criminals, people have alarms on their cars and homes, more and more people are carrying weapons to protect themselves, armed guards roam the hallways of many of our schools and every business owner has to invest in security cameras in order to watch over their stores. As I look around me, I see PLENTY of evidence that sin is universal.

I also sin is a reality from EXPERIENCE. The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If I am honest, a close introspection into my own life convinces me of the reality of sin. My thoughts convince me that I don’t think as God wants me to think. When I study my speech, I find I don’t always show my concern for others. In fact, when I look at my actions, I see that a lot of what I do centers around the person I love the most …ME.

The reality of sin is also seen because of the HOLY SPIRIT. The Holy Spirit teaches me about the reality of sin. Jesus said that one of the prominent ministries of the Holy Spirit would be to teach the reality of sin. John 16:8 says, “When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment.” The Holy Spirit confronts us with the reality of sin.

Every one of us needs to be confronted with our sin. You may not have committed the atrocious acts of King David, but sin is a reality in your life nonetheless. The problem we have in America today (even in the church) is there are few people who are willing to recognize and deal with their rebellious attitudes toward God.

There are two more thoughts I have on this subject which I will share with you tomorrow. We’ve lost REGRET over sin and the church has failed to teach REPENTANCE from sin.

Pray for one another today. And especially pray for the unborn babies who are being murdered by those who would seek to profit from their sin.

Have a great day.