Win Something Today

Today I will conduct a funeral service for a husband whose wife was buried but a few months ago.  His body shall now rest beside hers.  He was a highly successful man with wealth few accumulate but you wouldn’t have known it.  He was one of the most humble men I know.  What really speaks for him is his love for Christ and openness about his faith.  He just loved to talk about Jesus.  No push or shove.  It was natural for him.  His name is Don.

The passion to proclaim Jesus Christ is born from the Christian’s conversion experience, but enthusiasm can fizzle unless we continue learning and growing in faith. We have no reason to speak about someone we barely know.  Don knew Jesus.

Conversely,conviction about who God is strengthens the desire to share. We have the remedy for all of the world’s ills—Jesus Christ!  What good have we done for the kingdom of God or for our unbelieving friends if we stay quiet about Him?  Don never noticed his enthusiasm about Christ as a tool of evangelism.  He just knew what Jesus meant to him and assumed you would want to know as well.  People might start talking to him about money or investments and end up talking about life and faith.

Jesus does more than simply save people from the penalty of past transgression; He frees men and women from sin’s power every day.  When Christ was on the cross, God saw each believer crucified with Him so that sin’s allure was broken. That means we can say no to those things that enslave others.  The Gospel message we are called to proclaim frees others and teaches victorious living.

That is the legacy that Don leaves behind.  He taught victorious living in more ways than one.  Most of all he taught how to enjoy life, to explore life and to expand life.  It all began with Jesus and those around him.  It is the same for us.

Have a victorious day!

Michael

No Better Friend

As I write this, Rock Hurley lies in a CCU awaiting open heart surgery.  Phil Darlage had a filter implanted to prevent more clots in his lungs.  I am now heading to meet with a family in Columbus to prepare for the father’s funeral service.  So time is precious.  I have borrowed from Marcia’s meditation on Friendship for tonight’s class.  It is good to have a wife who is your best friend.  Thanks Marcia!

As you read 1 Chronicles 27, your eyes move down the list of the officials who performed important tasks for King David. Azmaveth, son of Adiel, was in charge of the royal storehouses. Ezri, son of Kelub, supervised the field-workers who farmed the land. Jaziz the Hagrite took care of the flocks. Jehiel, son of Hacmoni, took care of the king’s sons. Ahithophel served as the king’s counselor. Joab commanded the royal army. Hushai the Arkite was the king’s friend.

The king’s friend?

Why is Hushai the Arkite listed among those who bore heavy responsibilities in David’s kingdom? Was he a relative who deserved mention? No. Did he pay David some bribe or special favor to be close to the king? Nothing on this charge either.

Apparently, David wanted at least one man among his trusted advisers who was simply a friend. And Hushai fit that role very well. Let’s take a look at what we can learn from Hushai about being a good friend.

One by one, David and his army had beaten his enemies and acquired their lands, weapons, and soldiers. And God had promised David that his kingdom and throne would be established forever. What more could a man ask for? Yet something important was missing from David’s life at a time when he desperately needed it: a friend.

David’s dear friend Jonathan was gone, and he felt the loss keenly.

I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother; you were very dear to me. Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women.  2 Sam. 1:26

As David entered middle age, the Scriptures do not mention any close friends. Interestingly, this was when he fell into deep sin—committing adultery with Bathsheba and then arranging the murder of her husband, Uriah, in battle (2 Samuel 11). Perhaps David learned an important lesson from this failure about the value of good friends—or, rather, the danger of not having any.

David needed a friend. Not just a friend in name, but someone who, like Jonathan, would be there to encourage and help him. Hushai became that kind of friend.

When David was being hunted by his own son Absalom, David and his followers wept as they walked along and covered their heads. As they ascended the Mount of Olives, who was there to meet David at the summit? Hushai the Arkite (2 Sam. 15:32).

What was Hushai doing there? The place where he met David was a special place to worship God. This verse says that Hushai’s robe was torn and that he had dust on his head. There is no doubt what he was doing: mourning for the hardships in David’s life and bringing his friend before God in prayer.

Hushai willingly entered into David’s troubles and allowed himself to feel what his friend was feeling. But he didn’t stop there. Hushai then lifted his friend up to God in prayer, knowing that He was the one who could help and comfort David in his day of distress.

What about us?

Most of us don’t have friends who are kings or queens. But we do know people who face hardships or discouraging circumstances and need our support. They are tempted to make wrong decisions sexually, financially, and ethically. Each needs a loyal friend, just as King David did.

How can you be a "Hushai" to someone who needs a good friend? Are you willing to walk into hardships to encourage, offer comfort, and pray? Are you willing to sacrifice your time, resources, energy, or maybe even put your reputation on the line to help a friend in need? Are you using your gifts and abilities to help your friend?

Each of us has an opportunity to be a "Hushai" today. Take a careful look at your friendships at church, at work, or in your neighborhood. Consider who needs your friendship and encouragement.

You may not save a kingdom. But you may carry a friend through tough times, protect her from a poor decision, or inspire him to be all God wants him to be. Hushai was that kind of friend to David. Whose "Hushai" are you?

Pray for Rock and Sally.  Remember Phil and Brenda.  Better yet, be a good friend.  They wouldn’t ask for more.

Dressed for the Weather

Ephesians 6:13-18

I don’t know about you but these weathermen could use a little help.  My coat never quite matches the weather and I find myself too hot or too cold.  Then the idea struck me.  What if knew what spiritual weather I would face today?  Would that help me?

It would if I dressed accordingly.  So consider the following dress appropriate for today.  Our first prayer before rising should include step-by-step application of God’s armor. 

First,we strap on the belt of truth.  A leather apron protected the Roman soldier’s abdomen; our protective girdle is the truth of who we are in Christ: saints with supernatural power from God’s indwelling Spirit.

Next, the breastplate deflects arrows. As difficult situations arise,we can repel the temptation to live by emotion—whether anger, fear, or dissatisfaction—and respond with a right spirit instead.

The sandals of peace help us to stand firm.  Roman battle sandals usually had thick, spiked soles so that the soldier could anchor himself in the dirt.  Regardless of the fierce enemy rushing against us, we can remain firmly planted in God’s peaceful will.

The shield of faith is no  tiny, round piece of armor; it is door-sized equipment representing Christ’s protection against anything Satan throws.  Faith brought us salvation—the point at which we exchanged our old thought patterns for new ways of thinking.  Consequently, with salvation’s helmet, we put on the mind of Christ, which gives us discernment and wisdom.

Finally, we take up the sword of the Spirit so that we can combat Satan’s lies with Scripture’s truth.

Now here’s the neat part.  Knowing precisely what we will face each day, the Lord has graciously
provided the perfect equipment needed for our challenges.  So don’t worry about the spiritual weather.  Put on the right armor and the day is yours.

P.S. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement.  They are greatly appreciated.

Here’s Your Oscar

Good Morning:

My wife and my daughter watched the Oscars last night.  I assume they did because I didn’t.  It’s not that I don’t like the Oscars but more a guy thing.  I preferred a movie.  But it gave me pause to consider the impact that these awards were having here and around the world.  This was a ‘big’ deal.  For a few hours, nothing else mattered.  Not even politics.

Then I began to wonder what it meant to the actors who received their Oscars.  Recognition.  Acclaim. And yes, big money.  Their name alone will command hugh salaries.  But is that what they were after.  In our worlds, why do we do what we do?  Why do we put the long hours and extra effort into our work and responsibilities.  Obviously, not just for the  money.  We don’t make the ‘big’ bucks. 

I looked back in God’s Word to understand that motivation and found a disturbing verse.  It comes from Solomon who was best at what he did.  He wrote, "I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy!"  Ecclesiastes 4:4 (LB)

I didn’t enjoy that insight and had to review what drives me or you.  Are we truly just driven by our envy of what others have or enjoy?  Could our efforts be so shallow?

Thankfully, Solomon wasn’t finished with that thought.  In the book of Proverbs, he offers a contrast for this greedy motivation.  He writes, "A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life." Proverbs 113:7 (MSG)

There are actors that do their work the best they can irregardless of awards or recognition.  They do what they do because that is what they love to do.  They don’t do it for the hype or the glamour.  They never let the lights go to their head.

We should be much the same.  And we do.  You go through your day to day existence and few but those who know you realize what all you do.  Except God.  He takes great interest in what you do each day and the level of effort you put into it.  In heaven, He will recount all those unseen moments with us with the attention this world cannot give.  What a day that will be!

But for our patient sacrifice, He gives us something now.  He gives us a full life.  He lets us experience all the things that last like love, faith and hope.  He surrounds us with those we care about and gives us the chance to bless their lives.  And that is the greatest satisfaction.  It’s the gift of a clear conscience and an uncomplicated life.  We don’t have to worry about people expecting another Oscar performance.  We don’t have to worry about being labeled a one-time wonder.  We get to go and do this again today and tomorrow and tomorrow. 

So celebrate you rather plain and simple life.  It comes with something better than an Oscar.  It comes with fulfillment.

Michael

To Be or Not to Be

READ Titus 2:11-15

Who is a servant of God? Ask the average church-goer that question, and he will most likely point to his pastor or some Christian celebrity.  He almost certainly will not say,“I am God’s servant.”

The church has a mixed-up idea that believers are separated into servants—that is, individuals in full-time ministry—and lay people. The Bible contains no such distinction; instead, Paul reminds the Ephesians that believers are saved so that they might serve. (Ephesians 2:10)

Service is not an option.  The Lord calls us to be servants so that we can invest our lives in an eternally valuable purpose—the salvation and discipleship of mankind for His glory. Our job may be insignificant or our limitations great, but we are vessels of Christ with a role in the kingdom.

This past week I spent time with my 35 year reunion at Johnson Bible College.  It was good to see so many old faces.  And I mean ‘old’ faces.  But they still have the joy for service.  I only regret that one of the dear souls gave me the flu.  I recover as I write. 

There is something special shared between servants of the Lord.  Our faith is alive and active.  Irregardless of its success, we are engaged in the kingdom.  That is worth our gratitude. 

QUOTE

“It is probable that in most of us the spiritual life is impoverished and stunted because we give so little place to gratitude. It is more important to thank God for blessings received than to pray for them beforehand. For that forward-looking prayer, though right as an expression of dependence upon God, is still self-centered in part, at least, of its interest; there is something we hope to gain by our prayer. But the backward-looking act of thanksgiving is quite free from this. In itself it is quite selfless. Thus it is akin to love.  All our love to God is in response to his love for us; it never starts on our side.‘We love,
because he first loved us’ (1 John 4:19).”                                                        —William Temple

DO SOMETHING TODAY

Make some music.  Either sing in the shower, hum a tune or play a musical instrument but make some music today.  It’s not only good for the soul but it makes the day go a little bit easier.  If nothing else, listen to some good music.  But make some music.

"Then David spoke to the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers accompanied by instruments of music, stringed instruments, harps and cymbals."  I Chronicles 15:16

P.S. Take care in this weather.  A false step can hurt you in more ways than one.

When You Love Too Much

READ Acts 5:17-42

Today in a nation around the world and here at home, someone was physically assaulted for their belief in Jesus Christ.  Now more than any other time in the history of the church, followers of Jesus are paying for the faith big time.

Imagine receiving a beating as a warning to stop talking about Jesus. Would you quit? Would you go underground, secretly sharing His salvation with others? Or would you do as the disciples did: rejoice that you were considered worthy to suffer shame for Jesus’ sake and then go right back to your public
ministry?

The Lord’s disciples had reached the pinnacle of zealous submission.  These men were not compelled by fear or the hope of reward—they faced shame, physical pain, and death because they loved Christ too
much to stay quiet!  Faith was no longer a matter of possessing the right doctrines but loving Christ so much that they could not deny Him for any reason.

LEARN

  1. People who receive salvation and then sit back, content that their name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life,have missed the point of discipleship.
  2. Salvation is not just for our benefit; the Lord’s grace also positions us to be used for His glory.
  3. He intends to live through us, expressing His life-changing principles so that we can impact others. The only hindrance is the restriction we set on our own usefulness.

Limitations and passionate obedience cannot peacefully coexist.  Life might seem easier if we choose
when to obey God, but we’ll never be satisfied.  Instead, we will always wonder why the Lord does not use us more or bless us better. 

Our dedication may at first be based on the promised reward, which is acceptable because blessing is part of obedience. But as we mature and experience increasingly difficult challenges to our submission,
our devotion also grows until we, too, can rejoice when we suffer for His name.  We understand the high honor of facing this life the way Jesus did.

QUOTE

“God is pleased with no music below so much as with the thanksgiving songs of relieved widows and supported orphans; of rejoicing, comforted, and thankful persons.”     —Jeremy Taylor

DO

Put yourself in the path of resistance today.  Carry your Bible.  Pray before your meals.  Offer to pray for someone who is troubled.  Don’t keep your head low.  Allow yourself to be seen as a follower of Jesus today.

Thanks Anyway

READ Ephesians 5:15-21

Why would God command us to thank Him regardless of the circumstances?  The idea defies human logic.  But then, the Lord rarely binds Himself to man-made rules.  Scriptural principles serve specific purposes in the Christian’s life.

Gratitude keeps us aware of God’s presence, which builds our trust and ultimately strengthens our peace.  We must realize that thankfulness is not based on emotions or a situation’s outcome.  We can be grateful, even during trials, because the Lord has promised to work everything for our good. (Romans 8:28)

That means He has a purpose for every experience,pleasant or difficult. A big problem stacked against our small resources sends us running to Him, thankful He has committed to work it to our benefit.  The believer’s part is to trust God will bring good from trials and to seek to discover His plan, which gives further reason for thanking Him.

LEARN

  1. Understanding His intentions renews our strength for facing difficult trials.
  2. Expressing gratefulness changes our attitude about God, ourselves, and our situations. Most people allow hurt and stress to form a pessimistic mindset, which negatively impacts every facet of their life.
  3. We have God’s Spirit working within us to provide courage a flow of thanksgiving. Ask Him.

QUOTE

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. It is very easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements in comparison with what we owe others.”   —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

DO

Look at one of the problems you are enduring.  Ask yourself what spiritual purpose could possibly come out of this situation.  The spiritual purpose may be for another as well as you.  That is the target you want to keep you eyes upon.  That is the result you want to see achieved. 

When Its Hard to Say Thanks

READ:1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Some verses are easier to memorize than practice. If we could simply remove a word or two from these verses, God’s command would feel doable.  Giving thanks is easy, but giving thanks in everything is a nearly impossible task.

Often gratitude seems our last choice, considering the depth of pain or turmoil we may be enduring. But we have a Comforter who helps us exercise thankfulness in every situation.  The Holy Spirit helps believers to do what God requires, and part of His work involves teaching us a gratitude habit.

Psalm 92:1-2 tells us that since “it is good to give thanks to the Lord,”we ought to “declare God’s loving kindness in the morning, and His faithfulness by night.” In other words, we should regularly
anticipate and recall His provision. But when we are caught in painful circumstances that have no logical reason for thankfulness, our Comforter provides the motivation and words.

LEARN:

  1. Thanksgiving during turmoil takes place neither spontaneously nor apart from another
    spiritual activity—prayer.
  2. This passage links the disciplines of rejoicing, prayer, and thanksgiving: both praise of God and gratitude to God hinge upon regular communication with God.
  3. A prayerless man cannot remain thankful for long because he is too overwhelmed by his problems.
  4. Talking with God forces problems to recede so they can be replaced by peace.

QUOTE

“We have short memories in magnifying God’s grace. Every blessing that God confers upon us perishes through our carelessness, if we are not prompt and active in giving thanks.”  John Calvin

ACTION

Spend a few minutes meditating during your prayer time.  Ask the Spirit of God to reveal His presence and blessings amid your problems so you can do more than praise Him.  You can understand Him!

P.S. Email someone you know about these devotionals.  Invite them to join you as you follow after Jesus and become more like Him.

Passion

READ: Philippians 3:3-12

In today’s world, “passion” usually refers to sensuality or sexuality.But the word’s meaning—an intense desire toward something or someone—can apply to any area of life, including spirituality. Indeed, the one place passion ought to appear is in the believer’s life:

We should fervently seek to know the Lord Jesus Christ who saved us.

When we claim to know someone, we often mean that we’ve accumulated facts about the person or simply are aware of his existence.  Unfortunately, too many Christians “know” Jesus Christ in this superficial way. He is the world’s Savior, the virgin-born Son of God who accepted death in our place and then rose again to sit at the Father’s right hand.Those are the facts,but collecting and sharing data points will not bring lasting satisfaction.

Who is this Jesus that willingly died? Why did He give His life? The quest for these answers begins a journey to intimacy and true knowledge of Christ.

By recognizing Jesus as our Savior, we are blessed with redemption and a basic spiritual relationship. But though we’ve gained heaven, we can miss the treasure of experiencing Christ as Lord now. Few people will delve deep enough into Scripture and spiritual intimacy to claim Him as their life—as the One who makes believers complete. What about you?  Do you feel spiritually complete? The apostle Paul was so intimately acquainted with God that he viewed his own personal history and experiences as not worth comparing to what he had discovered in his walk with Christ.  (In fact, he called it rubbish)

LEARN:

If you want to thirst for Jesus as Paul did, only Scripture and your daily experience with Him can fuel your passion.  Start by opening the Word and drinking Him in.  Then beginning looking for Him in your daily walk.  Have you seen Him today?

QUOTE:

Beloved, it is not our long prayers but our believing God that gets the answer."  John Lake

OBEY: Never decide to do nothing just because you can only do a little.  Do what you can.  It matters especially to God.

"For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have."  2 Corinthians 8:12

This Sunday we address what heaven and resurrection can do for you life now and not just then.  See you Sunday.

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